When considering the natural fauna of present day New Jersey it is difficult to perceive any kind of predatory animal that would be abundant. That is because many predatory animals have for the most part been pushed out of the state. Being the most densely populated state, New Jersey has put a tremendous spatial pressure on animals which need space to roam in order to thrive. Species like the Bobcat (Lynx Rufus) are among these animals.
In 1970, the bobcat population in New Jersey was so threatened that it almost became completely extinct – mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation, but also from development and unregulated hunting. To counter this, the state and conservation organizations have relocated 24 wildcats from Maine to NJ between 1978 and 1982 as a means of reestablishing the population. The bobcat has also been placed on the state’s endangered species list. Although these efforts have helped, the bobcats still face challenges and remain endangered.
Bobcats have been disconnected from their historic range, pushing them into busy roadways. The above map shows location data for 2 bobcats. As can be seen, roadways impede their movements. Car impacts are the leading cause of bobcat mortality, between 2007 and 2016, 47 bobcats were killed by cars in NJ.
A nonprofit organization called “The Nature Conservancy” is trying to help the bobcats of New Jersey thrive by establishing an effort to reconnect and preserve habitat that has been lost to state control. The “Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey (CHANJ) project” aims to reconnect the landscape, particularly in the Highlands and Valley and Ridge regions of NJ.
“Bobcat Alley” is a 32,000 acre corridor that connects the regions of the Highlands to Kittatinny Ridge in north Jersey. It contains mixed forest and multiple creeks that drain into the Paulins Kill river. This targeted land strategy is critical for the protection of the bobcat species within NJ. It connects two great mountain ranges: the Appalachian Mountains with the Highlands, giving the cats access to an additional 400,000 preserved acres in NJ, PA, and NY.
One-third of the 32,000 acre corridor is already protected, but this plan has the goal to preserve another 3,500 acres by 2020. So far, the project has reached more than 800 acres towards this goal.
There is currently no reliable estimate of New Jersey’s bobcat population, but indicators show their numbers are slowly increasing. Bobcats are tracked through radio collars, scat-tracking dogs, roadkill assessments and community reportings. The preserved habitat will benefit lots of New Jersey’s resident and migratory wildlife, including the bobcats but other species as well. Donations can be made to the campaign at : https://support.nature.org/site/Donation2?17588.donation=form1&df_id=17588&set.SingleDesignee=13912
Written by: Sean Halpin