March 10, 2020
(20/S009) – Fanciers of domesticated felines of all kinds are plentiful in New Jersey.
According to an April 2018 report from radio station New Jersey 101.5, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison counted pet households in the state – and discovered that the cat population at the time totaled nearly 1.5 million. There’s a lot of meowing going on!
However, wild cats such as the bobcat have not faired as well in the modern-day Garden State.
The medium-sized bobcat once was plentiful in New Jersey, but has been considered an endangered species here since 1991. Deforestation and a growing population, as well as greater numbers of roads and development, all contributed to the population decline.
But the dedicated efforts of the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife have begun turning that around.
And now, a look at 1978 …
Bobcats were historically widespread in New Jersey, but hunting and deforestation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, followed by increasing fragmentation of their dwindling woodland habitat, led to steep declines in their population. By the early 1970s, they were thought to be extinct locally.
In March 1978, the DEP’s Division of Fish, Game and Shellfisheries relocated two bobcats from Maine into northern New Jersey in an effort to reintroduce the species into their former home ranges. Between 1978 and 1982, a total of 24 bobcats would be released into northern New Jersey, the seeds of a larger program of recovery and preservation that continues today.
In recent years, there have been consistent sightings of bobcats in northern New Jersey and as far south as Mercer County, which had its first confirmed observation in 2017.
However, roads and fragmented habitat continue to be an issue. The Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey program, administered by the Endangered and Nongame Species program within the DEP’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, is working to help secure and restore habitat connectivity across the state.