Large wild cat stops by to visit a Ridgefield yard
Strange things were expected this Election Day, but a cat that looks like a tiger, only it’s the size of a small dog ...
Well, that’s what Tony Loomis was greeted with when he went out into the yard of his Overlook Drive home in Ridgefield about noon Tuesday, Nov. 3.
“Maybe you will like my photos of a lynx who minutes before had run up my magnolia tree chasing a squirrel,” Loomis wrote, sending an email of the cat with a tiger-like face.
The email prompted some debate about whether the feline was a lynx or a bobcat, and Loomis was leaning bobcat when he responded to an email seeking some details on the encounter.
“I just stepped out of my side door and was talking to my Siamese cat who also had just come outside with me,” he said. “To my right there was a commotion and the squirrel and the bobcat went streaking up the magnolia tree about 15-20 feet away.
“The squirrel escaped, the bobcat seeing me, came down and went to the back of my yard about 120 feet away,” he said.
“I called for my wife to bring my camera and in that time the bobcat disappeared slowly into the scrub and trees.
“I got the camera, moved toward the bobcat’s last sighting but did not see it. As I returned to my house there was the bobcat just onto my neighbor’s property, calmly watching me,” he said.
The whole encounter was about 10 minutes, he said.
“Great photos, ” said Joe Doucet of Ridgebury Road, one of the people Loomis emailed the cat pictures to. “But I think it is most likely a bobcat.”
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) strongly supports that assessment.
“The bobcat is the only wild cat found in Connecticut and the most common wild cat in North America,” the DEEP website says.
That ever useful online resource Wikipedia clarifies the source of the bobcat-lynx confusion: A bobcat is a kind of lynx.
“A lynx,” Wikipedia says “... is any of the four species (Canada lynx, Iberian lynx, Eurasian lynx, bobcat) within the medium-sized wild cat genus Lynx.”
And then it says a lot more. The name lynx — though various iterations of Middle English, Latin and Greek — is derived from the Indo-European word for “light, brightness” and is likely a “reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes” Wikipedia says.
Though how would someone know that?
The state DEEP offers some background on bobcats in Connecticut.
“Historically, bobcats were not protected in Connecticut and were viewed as a threat to agriculture and game species,” the DEEP website says. “The state even had a bounty on bobcats from 1935-1971.
“By the early 1970s, a large increase in the value of bobcat pelts raised concerns that the population could be overharvested.”
The loss of forests also reduced bobcat-friendly habitat, accordion to the DEEP.
“In 1972, the bobcat was reclassified as a protected furbearer in Connecticut with no hunting or trapping seasons,” the DEEP said.
“Based on observation reports submitted to the Wildlife Division by the public and others, bobcat numbers appear to have increased in Connecticut in recent years.”
The habitat around Tony Loomis house isn’t exactly the wilderness.
“One-acre lots backing up to a horse farm on Ramapoo Road, and also wooded areas within easy reach,” he said.
The state DEEP offers a description of the animal.
“The bobcat is a stout-bodied, medium-sized feline, with a short, ‘bobbed’ tail (about six inches in length), prominent cheek ruffs, and tufts of black hair on its pointed ears. The sides and back are generally the same color with faint black spots; grayer in winter and tan in summer. The underparts are white,” the state says.
And while not the size of the tigers they kind of look like, they’re bigger than most kitty cats.
“Adult males typically weigh between 18 and 35 pounds and measure from 32 to 37 inches in length,” the DEEP says. “Adult females typically weigh between 15 and 30 pounds and measure from 28 to 32 inches in length.
“Bobcats are about two to three times the size of their distant relative, the domestic house cat …”
Has Loomis even seen anything similar before?
“My wife saw a bobcat two summers ago,” he said.
“Bears have been sighted in the last 15 years,” he added. “Recently we have seen a mangy fox quite often. Near neighbors keep chickens and are very aware of the fox.”
Chickens? A bobcat might share that interest.