Saturday, November 7, 2009

"What about the children!?" in 3...2...1...

Reclusive bobcat caught on camera in Water Gap park

(George Draney Photography)

He had been stalking the big cat for months and finally had the shot of a lifetime --photo shot, that is.

That's how landscape photographer George Draney explained getting a shot of an elusive wild bobcat in Warren County.

Draney, 60, of Washington in Warren County, said he photographed the bobcat on Oct. 21 in Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

"I was doing nature photography and in early spring, I spotted it numerous times,'' Draney recalled. So be began staking out a narrow, scrub-lined path twice a week, for about three or four months. A couple of times the bobcat crept by him but was gone before he could shoot a photo, he said.

The morning he finally got the shot, he was sitting in his car near the path and the bobcat was between 25 and 50 yards away, he said.

"I saw it going up the pathway in a hurry, so I thought to make a noise to make it look my way,'' Draney said. "So I whistle real loud, and it stopped. When I shot, it turned, and I got two more shots.''

The animal was the size of a medium dog and he estimated it weighed about 25 pounds. It appeared healthy, he added.

"It gave me quite a look; it really gave me a stare,'' he said. "It didn't look frightened, but disturbed by my being there.''

The Water Gap and other areas of Kitatinny Ridge are the best habitat areas the state has for bobcats, said Mick Valent, a wildlife biologist for the state Division of Fish and Wildlife, who said there's no reason to doubt Draney's account.

State biologists have found bobcat tracks and scat in the Water Gap area, and have photographed them there with motion-sensitive cameras baited with scent, Valent said. Those and other methods are used to calculate the number of wild bobcats living in the state: at least 90, and most live north of Route 80, Valent

Bobcats are on the state list of endangered animals. They had disappeared
by the early 1970s because of habitat loss, so about 20 were brought from Maine from 1978 to 1982 to repopulate them in New Jeresey.

One sign that the big cats have bounced back are the dozen road kills found in
the past year, including one on Route 46 in Parsippany near the Boonton Reservoir this past spring, Valent said.

Bobcats are so shy that they pose no danger for people, he said. They are very reclusive and have individual territories ranging from one square mile to 25 square miles. They eat mice, chipmunks, squirrels and birds.

"There's no shortage of food for bobcats,'' Valent said, explaining why they are not common. "It's the habitat that's critical. Large forested areas are a core requirement. Small patches of woods are not enough.''

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