New York State is home to the bobcat, a wild cat species seen throughout upstate New York. Historically, the Empire State was also the native range of two more wild cat species, the Canada lynx and eastern cougar. However, the Canada lynx is now extirpated in New York -- meaning it lives in other parts of the world, but not in New York -- and the eastern cougar has been declared extinct.
The most frequently seen wild cat in New York is the bobcat, or Lynx rufus. This wild cat is found through the mountainous regions of the Empire State, such as the Adirondacks and Catskills. Bobcats are also seen in western New York counties. As of 2011, the bobcat is not listed as threatened or endangered in New York. As adults, this feline species grows up to approximately 3 feet in length. Bobcats possess short tails, which are 4 to 8 inches long. Bobcats are usually nocturnal animals, but have also been seen during the daytime. Whitetail deer and squirrels are some of the bobcat's common prey.
The Canada Lynx, or Lynx canadensis, is a larger relative of the bobcat. When they fully mature, these wild cats grow to approximately 40 to 45 inches in length. Historically, the Canada lynx was native to New York. However, due to habitat loss and overhunting, this species is no longer found in the Empire State. In the present, the Canada lynx is only native to Maine, Minnesota, Washington and Montana in the continental United States. Deciduous forests are the natural habitats of Canada lynx.
Also known as mountain lion or catamount, the eastern cougar, or Felis concolor couguar, was once one of the most common feline subspecies in North America. This cat's native range included New York during that time. However, the eastern cougar has been extirpated in New York and is believed to be extinct in the wild. Male eastern cougars grew up to 8 feet, while females reached 6 feet long. Easter cougars became extinct due to hunting, habitat fragmentation, deforestation and urbanization.
New York-Based Conservation
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, or NYSDEC, is a branch of New York's state government, and its primary focus is the conservation of the state's nature and wildlife. Underneath the NYSDEC's scope is the preservation of wild cats. NYSDEC's plan to preserve big cats and other wildlife by preventing pollution and controlling the state's water supply. This group also lobbies to end overhunting of wild cats.
The New York-based conservation group Panthera not only battles for the preservation of cats in New York, but throughout the world. This group focuses particularly on big cats, such as cougars, jaguars and tigers. Panthera is a public charity and its proceeds go toward research and raising awareness for the preservation of big cats.