When local photographer Mark Bates captured photos of a young bobcat hunting salmon near Burnaby Lake, the news made headlines.
Although this wasn’t the first time that these elusive predators have been spotted in the area, the response to the news and photos has been very enthusiastic.
It’s heartening to know that special animals like these can still be found, even in the heart of the province’s third largest city. Indeed, it’s a huge testament to Metro Vancouver’s regional parks and a demonstration of the critical role they play in preserving habitats and healthy ecosystems.
“It’s a little bit surprising to see a bobcat in the middle of the city, so clearly it’s places like Burnaby Lake Regional Park that are providing enough habitat for them to live in,” says Peter Lawrance, Park Interpretation Specialist at Metro Vancouver Regional Parks.
The wildlife photographer said, “It was exciting to see this bobcat fishing for salmon, and good to know animals like this have suitable habitat to live within our city environment. I only had a minute or two with it, then it literally disappeared into the forest.”
“We’re not going to see bobcats wandering the neighbourhoods like we do some other urban wildlife. They need more space and habitat than that. So we do need to have these larger nature parks,” says Lawrance.
In fact, a U.S. study on the effects of urbanization and habitat fragmentation on bobcats has concluded that it is essential to preserve open space of sufficient quantity and quality in order for populations to be viable.
Bobcats and Lynx
Bobcats (Lynx rufus) get their common name from their black-tipped, stubby tails. However, you may be surprised to learn that bobcats’ tails are longer than the tails of their slightly larger cousins, the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis).
Other differences between bobcats and lynx include the bobcat’s shorter ear tufts and smaller paws.
Both bobcats and lynx are medium-sized cats that are about two to three times larger than a house cat, but considerably smaller than cougars.
Bobcats are opportunistic predators. The one photographed in early November by Mark Bates was eating salmon, but they also eat rabbits, hares, small rodents, insects, chickens, geese, and deer.
“I imagine there’s a good chance that they are eating ducks,” says Lawrance. “In the late spring and summer they were seen quite often down at Piper’s Spit (in Burnaby Lake Regional Park) where there are a lot of ducks and geese.”
“I’ve seen the bobcat at the park two or three times. One of the times it had just come out of the creek. I don’t know whether it tried to catch a duck unsuccessfully or it was just passing through that way, but this soaking wet bobcat certainly frightened all the ducks off. That was kind of fun,” laughed Lawrance.
“Having a more top-level predator shows that we are providing good habitat. Bobcats aren’t the only carnivores we’ve had in the park,” says Lawrance. “We’ve had bear come through, coyotes, and every year or two, we get reports of even a cougar that’s wandered in from somewhere. So the park is certainly providing important habitat for the region.”
To support your Metro Vancouver’s Regional Parks and help provide critical habitats and preserve ecosystems, please donate today to the Pacific Parklands Foundation at: https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/11102 or consider becoming a Park Champion Monthly Donor!