Trail Cameras Track ‘Critically Low’ New York Bobcat Population

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With thousands of strategically placed cameras covering more than 27,000 square miles in central and western New York, biologists have evidence that bobcat populations remain critically low in central and western New York state.

Despite reports of recent recoveries elsewhere, bobcat populations in New York State displayed low occupancy, according to research based on years of observation by Cornell University and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Their latest report was published February in Biological Conservation.

“Bobcats probably displayed one of the more concerning trends that we saw,” said lead author Joshua Twining, a postdoctoral researcher in the New York Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, which is a U.S. Geological Survey unit at Cornell led by Angela Fuller.

Due to the very low occupancy observed, “it would be impossible for us to detect a decline in bobcat occupancy in this region without the species being extirpated,” Twining said.

He explained that New York has variable hunting and trapping seasons for bobcats, depending on the region. Some areas surveyed were not open to bobcat hunting or trapping and he said that places along the Pennsylvania border have been open to bobcat harvest since 2013.

The researchers also tracked occupancies for several other animals. White-tailed deer in the region flourish; red fox and coyote populations remain abundant and stable; and eastern wild turkey and gray fox numbers remain low.

Funding was provided by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, from a Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Grant.

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