Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bobcat sightings on the rise in Connecticut

Bobcat Sightings Reported In Tolland
By JESSE LEAVENWORTH

The Hartford Courant

September 30, 2009

TOLLAND —

The number of bobcats in the state appears to be growing, and several town residents added to the sightings last weekend.

Bobcats were seen on Old Post Road, Cider Mill Road, Eaton Road and Charles Street/Old Stafford Road, according to a press release Tuesday from the local animal control office.

Jeanne Kosciw, who lives on Old Post Road, took photos of a bobcat in her yard Saturday morning. Kosciw said she was alerted about 5:45 a.m. by the loud squawking of a guinea hen she keeps in a backyard coop. The bobcat lingered around the coop for about 10 minutes, and Kosciw took the photos from her kitchen window, knocking on the window at one point so that the cat would look at her to get a head-on shot.

The sightings in town could involve two or three separate animals, animal control Supervisor John Littell said Tuesday.

The secretive cats have been spotted mostly west of the Connecticut River, and, in particular, in the state's northwest section, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. In the 12-month period that ended in September 2008, 200 bobcat sightings were recorded, the highest number in about five years, DEP wildlife biologist Paul Rego said. About a third of the sightings have been east of the river, Rego said.

The sightings in Tolland prompted the animal control office to warn residents about the wild felines.

"Residents should not be alarmed by these sightings but should remember these animals are wild," a press release said. "Please do not try to go near them or feed them. Be sure all trash is protected in closed bins and do not leave dog or cat food outdoors. Children and pets should not be left unattended if there have been sightings in your area."

Chickens and other fowl should be securely fenced and house cats should be kept indoors, especially at night, according to the release. People who encounter bobcats in their yards can try to scare them away by making loud noises, such as banging on pots and pans or using whistles, according to the release.

Bobcats are night prowlers for the most part, although they have been spotted during the day. They usually avoid contact with people, Rego said.

"It's very rare for them to be aggressive toward humans," he said.

One exception occurred in April 2005, when a rabid bobcat attacked a man in Litchfield. Bill Winn had gone into the cellar of his mother's home to investigate loud noises. The 30-pound cat leaped on him at the bottom of the stairs, sank its teeth into Winn's left knee and started shredding his pants with teeth and claws.

Winn managed to sit on the cellar steps facing the cat and repeatedly kicked it with his right foot. He eventually kicked it away, got up and slammed the cellar door before the bobcat could jump at him again. A state conservation officer shot the animal, and a laboratory test of its brain confirmed that it had rabies, which is unusual in bobcats.

The cats, which can weigh up to 40 pounds, are not listed as endangered or threatened in the state, but trapping is not allowed.

http://www.courant.com/community/tolland/hc-tolland-bobcats-0930.artsep29,0,6649307.story

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

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