Bobcats in Connecticut
Making a Comeback
Connecticut's once dwindling bobcat population was facing extirpation until 1972 when unregulated exploitation was halted, and the bobcat was reclassified as a protected furbearer with no hunting or trapping seasons. The bobcat population has since recovered due to improving forest habitat conditions and legal protections. By 1825, only 25% of Connecticut was forested due to deforestation from agricultural activities and other uses of timber. Today, nearly 60% of Connecticut is covered in forest, and bobcats are regularly observed throughout the state. Photo (above) courtesy of J Isaac Doty.
Connecticut's Top Predator
It is important to monitor the state's bobcat population because the presence of these top predators affects many other species, including prey species and competing predators.
In Connecticut, bobcats prey on cottontail rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles, white-tailed deer, birds, and, to a much lesser extent, insects and reptiles. Bobcats, on occasion, may also prey on unsupervised domestic animals, including small livestock and poultry.
Do bobcats have a preferred prey? Which food sources in Connecticut do bobcats depend on most? To answer these questions, along with others, the Wildlife Division is examining stomach contents from road-killed bobcats to better understand the bobcat's dietary habits.
Learn more about that natural history of bobcats from our Bobcat Fact Sheet.
The DEEP Wildlife Division initiated a bobcat study in 2017 to investigate bobcat habitat use in different housing densities in Connecticut. Biologists want to determine how the state's bobcats meet their needs in both rural and suburban areas, as well as how successful bobcats are at reproduction and survival.
Methods: With the assistance of local trappers, the Wildlife Division completed two seasons of live-trapping bobcats from late 2017 to early 2019. All live-trapped bobcats were marked with yellow ear tags. Biologists also collected important data from each bobcat, including weight, age, and sex. Fifty bobcats were fitted with GPS (Global Positioning System) collars in the 2017-2018 season. All of those collars were programmed to automatically detach from the animals on August 1, 2018.
Telemetry and GPS Collars: Radio telemetry is a valuable tool that allows biologists to track animals from a distance. In general, biologists are able answer questions related to the location, dispersal, migration, activity patterns, and home range of the target animal.
NEW! The DEEP Wildlife Division Needs your Help! The collars for the 2018-2019 study season started detaching from bobcats in August 2019 and will continue dropping off through March 2020. Bobcat project staff will be using radio telemetry equipment to locate and recover the detached collars. If you find a detached collar before staff are able to retrieve it, please collect it and contact the Wildlife Division at 860-424-3211 or firstname.lastname@example.org. We will make arrangements to pick it up from you.
Examining Stomach Contents: To help better understand the dietary habits of bobcats, biologists are examining the stomach contents of road-killed bobcats. Initial findings show that a majority of the bobcat's diet includes squirrels (red and gray) and cottontail rabbits.
Anyone who finds a ROAD-KILLED BOBCAT is urged to call the Wildlife Division at 860-424-3011 and provide location details. (Please DO NOT report sightings of live bobcats at this number -- see below on how to report sightings.) To ensure the bobcat carcass remains until DEEP staff are able to collect it, we additionally ask (if the situation is SAFE) that you move the bobcat further from the road and cover it with branches or a bag. Avoid handling the carcass and use a shovel, branch, or other item to move it.
Citizen Science: Report Your Observations!
To determine bobcat abundance and distribution, we are relying on help from Connecticut residents to report observations of bobcats. Reports from the public are greatly appreciated and will be invaluable towards understanding the current bobcat population in Connecticut.
When recording a sighting, please provide the following information:
- Date and specific location (including town) of the sighting
- Number of bobcats observed
- If there are visible ear tags or collars on the bobcat(s)
- If the sighting is from a trail camera (and you are able to positively identify the animal as a bobcat)
- Additional comments or contact information with your observations also are useful.
We greatly appreciate the time and effort of Connecticut residents to report their bobcat sightings. This study would not be possible without volunteer assistance.
Visit the Wildlife Division's Volunteer and Citizen Science page to learn about additional opportunities.
Content last updated March 2020.