Bobcat population increasing in Western Maryland

This image by David Westphalen shows a bobcat, a species whose local population is currently being studied.

GRANTSVILLE — An ongoing study is finding evidence of a growing bobcat population in Garrett and Allegany counties.

Harry Spiker, game mammal section leader for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife & Heritage Service, said the research project is in the second half of a two-year study.

“We contracted with the University of Delaware,” he said. 

Kevin Lamp, a graduate student at the school, will present his research findings at 5 p.m. Saturday at the New Germany Lake House, 403 McAndrews Hill Road, Grantsville.

While Lamp worked with technicians and studied the local bobcat population during the summer, the bulk of the field research happens in winter, Spiker said.

“It’s the bobcat breeding season,” he said, and added the animals are active and travel to search for mates. 

“A lot of bears are (also) denned up,” Spiker said, which means they won’t interfere with the study.

The researchers use special lures, baits and trail cameras at various sample sites on public and private land to collect evidence including video images of the bobcats. 

“We have been getting several pictures of them,” he said.

The animals are not being captured or collared, Spiker said.

The study covers roughly 120 grids, which are each about 3 kilometers square, in the two counties.

“It’s a pretty big area,” Spiker said.

A bobcat is typically about twice the size of a house cat and its diet includes rodents and other small mammals, birds and snakes.

“They are a predator,” he said.

The nocturnal animals are usually reclusive. 

“They’re typically very secretive by nature,” Spiker said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of reports on (bobcats) in recent years,” Spiker said. “Their population appears to be increasing.”

Last week, The Washington Post reported a bobcat was spotted along the C&O Canal in Washington, D.C.

Bobcats are native to North America and can be found from Canada to southwestern New Mexico. In the D.C. region, sightings have been reported in rural areas of Maryland and Virginia.

“A night camera in a wooded area near the Palisades neighborhood caught images of the bobcat Nov. 9, but the photos were not discovered until earlier this month,” the publication’s website states. “The camera is one of several placed around the city by organizers with DC Cat Count, a $1.5 million, three-year effort to document the lives of feral cats that roam Washington.”

To learn more or register for Lamp’s presentation, call 301-895-5453.

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