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Increased bobcat sightings a rare treat: Nova Scotia biologist

A bobcat is shown resting on a farm property in Middle Musquodoboit on Wednesday. - Karen Dean

HALIFAX, N.S. - Judging by the last few days, you wouldn’t think bobcat sightings are a rare occurrence.

On Sunday, a Lucasville resident posted a fascinating video on her Facebook page capturing a trio of bobcats roaming in her backyard. In the last week, the Facebook page “We Love Nova Scotia” featured three photos of the elusive cat in Cape Breton, Lower Sackville and Middle Musquodoboit.

“That’s amazing,” said Michael Boudreau, a wildlife biologist with Department of Natural Resources. “You don’t generally get to see bobcats very often. We are so fortunate to have such a beautiful animal in our wild lands."

It’s not that they’re hiding, he says. They’re there and on the move in winter in search for food. You just rarely see them.

But sightings are a little more common in winter because their golden coats contrast with the snow, he says.

“When I travel through Queens and Lunenburg in the wintertime, I would regularly see bobcat tracks going through people’s yards,” said Boudreau. “They’re moving mostly at night, early morning, late evening and people are right there. They just don’t see them. The snow covering makes them easier to spot. If there was no snow you’d likely miss them. They’re very mysterious, cryptic animals.”

Karen Dean happened to be folding laundry on Wednesday afternoon when she spotted a pair of spirited bobcats on her farm property in Middle Musquodoboit.

 A bobcat stands guard in Middle Musquodoboit after being chased up a tree by another bobcat on Wednesday afternoon. - Karen Dean
A bobcat stands guard in Middle Musquodoboit after being chased up a tree by another bobcat on Wednesday afternoon. - Karen Dean

They hung around for about an hour, darting around her property before one chased the other up a tree. She captured the spectacle with her camera.

“It made my day,” she said. “They’re just majestic animals, so mysterious and their markings are so beautiful. I was able to get about 20 feet away from one and it seemed to just try to shrink and disappear into the snow.”

Dean thought she might have witnessed a mating dance. But Boudreau says it’s too early for mating season.

He figured that they could have been juveniles practicing survival tactics.

“What looks like playing is actually the animals learning to catch prey or learning to defend themselves from one another and other animals. One could be more dominant than the other and asserting its dominance.”

Bobcats aren’t at risk in the province. Boudreau says there have been more sightings than usual this year.

“From what I’ve heard from trappers in the province there seems to be a lot of bobcats around this year. In some cases more bobcats than coyotes.

“Most of those reports I’m getting are coming out of Cumberland, Colchester, Kings and Queens County. There’s also some coming from Lunenburg and Halifax. But it doesn’t mean that they’re just there. A friend of mine in Inverness County saw four of five this winter and normally he doesn’t see them at all. They are on the move and they’re hungry.”

He says that a bobcat sighting should be cause for concern for pet owners.

“There are always a couple cases every year where cats and dogs are attacked by bobcats. Some of the males can grow to 40 pounds. They can take a deer down.”

They’re one of Boudreau’s favourite animals, largely for their resilience and elusiveness.

“They eat rabbits, birds, squirrels, deer, and they’re scavengers. They’re just fascinating animals. They’re survivors.”

As Karen Dean can attest, there have been more bobcat sightings than usual this year. - Karen Dean
As Karen Dean can attest, there have been more bobcat sightings than usual this year. - Karen Dean

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