The town is allowing biologists from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to trap bobcats within Blackledge Falls to determine the population of the elusive mammals.
The 80-acre, town-owned parcel is located next to the 1,500-acre Gay City State Park. Last month, biologists from DEEP began trapping bobcats across the state and placing radio collars on them to determine their range within areas of low, moderate and high housing density. The population of bobcats, animals once hunted to extinction in the state, has been growing over the past several years.
Jason Hawley, a wildlife biologist with DEEP, said since the program began Sept. 1 they have collared seven bobcats across the state. DEEP uses its own trappers and volunteer trappers. The traps — actually cages with a swinging door that traps the cats — at Blackledge Falls will be monitored by a volunteer trapper, Hawley said.
The study will collar bobcats in towns throughout the state. So far bobcats have been trapped, fitted with collars and released in New Milford, Wallingford, Greenwich, Canton, Winchester and Beacon Falls. Hawley noted the trapping becomes easier as the weather turns colder. The collars have GPS units in them so the bobcat’s every movement can be tracked. The collars are programmed to fall off in August.
“We are already getting some good data,” Hawley said. “We want to get some really good data along the coast, east and west. We want a good representative sample.”
Hawley said the goal of the study is to determine the types of habitat used by the cats in areas of low, medium and high housing density. The study will determine the cats’ range and home base. Researchers will collar 25 males and 25 females over a two-year period.
“We will be able to determine what types of habitat are important to them especially in the higher density areas and that would give us a pretty good idea of what kinds of habitat needs to be protected as Connecticut becomes more suburban and really more urban,” he said.
There are several miles of trails within Blackledge Falls and Town Manager Richard J. Johnson said he was concerned about dogs getting trapped accidentally.
“There will be no traps along the walking trails,” Johnson said. “I specifically asked about that.”
There is no danger of dogs being trapped in the small cages, Hawley said. In the remote chance a dog did become trapped, Hawley said the owners could just swing the door open and let the dog out.