01:00 AM EST on Monday, December 8, 2008
By Peter B. Lord
Journal Environment Writer
Every year at least 1,000 deer in Rhode Island are struck and killed
by motor vehicles. Much less often, some of Rhode Island's rarer
wildlife are lost.
That was the case a week ago Saturday in a rural corner of South
Kingstown, just north of the Great Swamp Management Area, when a
Department of Environmental Management conservation officer found a
female bobcat by the side of Liberty Lane, near Route 2.
The carcass, weighing 17 pounds "was in nearly perfect condition,"
except for a head injury, said DEM biologist Charles Brown, one of
the few DEM scientists who have not seen a live bobcat in the wild.
Bobcats are elusive figures in Rhode Island, and still somewhat
uncommon, Brown said. Google "bobcat and Rhode Island" and you'll get
far more references to sports teams than to Lynx rufus.
People do report sightings of bobcats, particularly around Great
Swamp, South Road and Ministerial Road in South Kingstown, Brown
said. One was even seen near the University of Rhode Island campus.
About once a year, the DEM gets a report of a bobcat being killed by
a car, Brown said. The reports show they get around. Road kills have
been reported in East Greenwich, Glocester, Hopkinton and Scituate.
Ten years ago, DEM put out a news release when one was killed during
the summer in Exeter. That bobcat weighed 27 pounds.
DEM reported then that the average bobcat weighs 15 to 20 pounds, but
they have been found as big as 35 pounds. They have a distinctive
appearance with tawny, spotted fur, large tufted ears, large hind
legs and feet, and a bobbed tail.
Brown says he would classify bobcats are being uncommon in Rhode
Island, but it would be impossible to estimate their numbers. They
are very secretive and shy, he said.
But unlike beaver and fisher cats, two animals that were wiped out in
Rhode Island and then made comebacks, bobcats probably have always
been here, Brown said. They eat small mammals and birds.
Brown put the dead bobcat in a freezer at the DEM. He says he hopes
to have the pelt and skeleton preserved so there is a biological
Brown said that car strikes of bobcats seem to be nudging upward,
suggesting their populations are increasing.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org