Special to the Herald
BURLINGTON - Imagine you spot a mysterious collar equipped with a GPS in your backyard or while you’re outdoors. You realize it’s a bobcat collar. Now what?
As part of its Bobcat Research Project, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) is asking residents to notify Wildlife Division officials if they come across a GPS neck collar.
On Aug. 1, 50 adult bobcats across the state will shed the collars for the Wildlife Division to collect and harvest research from.
“It’s very important that we get these collars back,” the project’s head biologist Jason Hawley said. “The collars store the data on them and that data’s critical to the success of this project.”
Since starting last fall, the Bobcat Research Project has aimed to investigate bobcat habitat use in different housing densities and how bobcats meet their needs in both rural and suburban areas.
Additionally, officials have tracked population size, survival success and reproduction. Half of the collared bobcats are female so that dens and kittens are observed.
Hawley explained that this information is imperative in understanding Connecticut’s bobcats, especially as the state and the country continue to rapidly urbanize, calling it a “pressing issue.”
“We want to learn more about bobcats so, going forward, we can help conserve the population. They’re an apex predator, so they’re an important animal since they affect everything below them - they’re an umbrella species. The data will be used in the state to help with conservation of the species [and other species] in the state,” he said.
“Over the last few decades, the bobcat population has just really, really taken off,” Hawley said. “So, we have this new predator here that’s probably our apex predator that we really don’t know much about. We really should find out as much as we can.” This is the first stage of the project.
After collecting this initial data, which ranges from last fall to Aug. 1 when the collars automatically detach, Hawley plans to redeploy the collars this fall and leave them on for an entire year.
They’ll be distributed again after that for a third round.
That’s why, Hawley stressed again, it’s essential that residents call DEEP if they see a collar, saying that the Wildlife Division would retrieve it in a manner that’s easiest for the person who finds it.
“We’ll do whatever’s most convenient for the person. People are helping us out as it is,” he said. “It’s very important.”
If you stumble across a bobcat collar, contact DEEP’s Wildlife Division at 860-424-3045 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the event of a bobcat sighting, report it via iNaturalist or the Connecticut Fish and Wildlife Facebook page.
Include the numbers on the bobcat’s yellow ear tags if they’re visible on the animal.