New Jersey experienced a great deal of rapid suburbanization during the second half of the 20th century. It contains various geographical features and is equipped with several important rivers, lakes and fishing ponds. But what types of feral cats roam the state? Are there cougars in New Jersey?
Decades ago, cougars were widely distributed across the Americas, but intensive hunting has led to a sharp decline in their numbers. So how are they doing in New Jersey? Read on to find out.
What does a mountain lion look like?
Similar to the large, short-haired domestic cat, cougars have small round ears on their small skulls, and they have short faces. Their long necks and tails are attached to large, sleek bodies. A normal cougar measures anywhere from three feet three inches to five feet five inches.
The shoulders of the cougar are two to two and a half feet above the ground. Females typically weigh between 80 and 100 pounds as adults, while males typically weigh between 125 and 160 pounds. Cougars have powerful legs, designed for sudden increases in speed, designed for pounces.
Are there mountain lions in New Jersey?
Simply put, there are no native cougars in New Jersey today. The Garden State has never officially recorded mountain lions in the state in contemporary times, although there have been numerous “sightings” reported.
Cougars, however, are the most common species outside of New Jersey. Despite widespread claims today, there have been no recent verifiable reports of mountain lion sightings in the state. However, they used to live there.
According to historical sources, during the European colonial period, cougars were found throughout the state. Unfortunately, they became extinct in the early 1800s, with the last animals wiped out in Ocean, Cape May, and Atlantic counties between 1830 and 1840.
Before the arrival of European settlers, mountain lions used to roam throughout New Jersey and migrate between New Jersey and neighboring states. Although woods, slopes, and wooded stream banks are ideal habitats, mountain lions could have survived anywhere where prey was plentiful. The decline and eventual extinction of the New Jersey mountain lion is due to a combination of factors, including natural hunting, conversion of wildlands to agriculture and human settlements, highways and roads, and other habitat degradation.
New Jersey Mountain Lion Sightings
Not a year goes by without a New Jersey resident hearing from a person who says he saw or heard about a mountain lion roaming the state’s fields and woods recently. Cougars won’t be coming back, and that’s either misfortune or luck, depending on how much you really want them to come back.
Most reported sightings in recent years were either hoaxes or simple mistakes. But in some ways, it makes sense that many would think or say that the big cat has returned to New Jersey. They are wonderful creatures who embody what it means to be an apex predator – graceful but dangerous, stealthy but fearless. Spotting one in the wild is pretty amazing too. Spotting a cougar is like spotting an ivory-billed woodpecker, and let’s face it – almost impossible, but certainly unbelievable.
Over the years, many articles about “sightings” of “big cats” have appeared online. One of them was reportedly a cougar in Camden County. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Fish and Wildlife occasionally receives information. It investigates, but its conclusion is always that these big cats are not cougars.
Bobcats are the largest cat species found in New Jersey. Domestic cats, bobcats, and cougars are very different from each other and should not be confused with each other.
Are Cougars Common in the United States?
Cougars, once found across the country, are now mostly confined to 14 western states, save for a small endangered population in Florida. Five small communities east of the Rocky Mountains regained a fragile existence in the 1980s and 90s, but their futures are uncertain.
Pumas have inhabited all of North and South America since humans crossed the land bridge from Asia 40,000 years ago. There are thought to be between 20,000 and 30,000 mountain lions in the United States. It is difficult to determine the exact population size of mountain lions because they are solitary and elusive. Some species travel long distances to find prey, while others settle in one place and breed there.
Where do cougars live in the Americas?
The puma is the most common and widely distributed mammal in the Americas. However, years of large-scale hunting in the United States has led to a dramatic decline in its numbers. Cougars may be able to regain some of their historic range due to hunting restrictions and conservation efforts. There are no resident lion populations in the eastern United States. However, some states occasionally see cats just passing by.
Cougars can live almost anywhere except the tallest snow-capped mountains, wetlands, woodlands, and deserts. Sometimes these felines venture as far as the northeastern states.
What feral cats live in New Jersey?
The only wild cat that roams New Jersey today is the bobcat. They range in weight from 15 to 35 pounds, have speckled hair, and are easily recognizable by the long tufts that grow from the tops of their ears. These cats were once widespread across the state, but now, Warren, Sussex, Passaic, Morris, and Hunterdon counties are where you’ll most often find them.
Bobcats are considered endangered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Conservation. This is due to increased urbanization and subsequent loss of feral cat-friendly habitat across the state. Bobcats often hunt mice, rabbits, and small birds for most of the night.
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I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
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