(NECN: Lauren Collins, Fremont, NH) Bobcats are on the prowl in New Hampshire but wildlife officials don't know just how many are out there.
“And a camera trap study that's going on now gives us a way to index portions of the state and give us a general idea of how dense bobcats are,” says New Hampshire Wildlife Biologist Patrick Tate.
The Department of Fish and Game, along with the University of New Hampshire, is looking for volunteers to set up trail cameras in the southern part of the state in the hopes of catching images of the elusive animal and, in turn, better understand it.
“We were beginning to have more reports from the public and more questions about them and along with those questions we didn't have answers,” says Tate.
One big question the public asks is whether they're seeing bobcats or mountain lions.
Those are about two feet larger and have long, not stubby, tails. More and more reports have come in from all over the state from people who swear they've seen them, yet, on the record, they don't exist in the northeast.
The eastern mountain was declared extinct a long time ago. The last documented one in New Hampshire was killed in the town of Lee in around 1850.
Officials have not been able to verify the validity of one photo sent to them last year from the western part of the state. As for many of the others that land in Tate's inbox, “I have found the same images reported in other states in previous years so they have been confirmed hoaxes.”
Tate admits some very credible people have reported sightings and a western mountain lion was struck by a car in Connecticut in 2011. That had walked all the way from South Dakota.
“People have trafficked mountain lions and they have moved east on their own so anything is possible. We still don't have the physical evidence to verify it.”
It's possible in 100 years the western mountain lion could call New Hampshire home. For now Tate expects the bobcat count will help officials better understand what's going on with the smaller feline.