The image of the bobcat may conjure up a wild wilderness far, far from human life, but the bobcat is actually a common species in Vermont, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. These wild cats join an elusive group of wildlife across the state that might hide from the spotlight, but inhabit the hills and valleys of Vermont. Since the state has a break from cold temperatures, beware of these Vermont species.
The big cat species is often a legendary thing in the Green Mountain State. Scientists have not found evidence of Catamounts in the state since the last animal was shot in 1881, according to the Vermont History Explorer. However, there are other types of big cats common in Vermont: Bobcats.
Bobcats are common in the Champlain Valley and have been spotted around the Burlington area in places like Intervale on the Winooski and Burlington border, according to Vermont Fish and Wildlife Management Program Director David Sausville.
Why are these big cats so close to town? The Champlain Valley has a perfect prey base for animals. Bobcats are found throughout the state, but the small animals of the Champlain Valley, such as rabbits and mice, make up a large feeding ground for Bobcats, according to Sussville.
Virginia opossum is not native to Vermont, as its name suggests. However, the nocturnal animal now maintains a healthy population in the state, according to Sausville.
“They’re very common now, and were only found in the southern part of the state and the early 1980s,” Sausville said. Now that the species is home to urban areas, they often find comfort by digging into building foundations, garages, and attics, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Giant American deer
The time between late May through July is one of the prime times to see the famous Vermont animal, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The moose is found throughout Vermont, but is most common in the Northeast Kingdom and along the Green Mountain Range, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. If seeing an elk is on your bucket list, be sure to do it from a distance and be especially careful on the roads. Moose are likely to cross in the morning and at night and can be extremely dangerous to hit because of their size, according to the Vermont Natural Resources Agency.
Black bears are not rare in Vermont and are very common in rural areas, especially in the spring and fall when the animals are out or into hibernation, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
However, the animals are becoming more habituated, which is not good for people or bears, according to Sussville.
“We have more bear in the area,” Sausville said. “We care a little bit about them if they get used to human foods, they get a little bolder.”
Securing food and keeping food indoors is key to deterring bears, which are usually docile animals, according to Sausville.
Stay safe and don’t assume
These animals live in the Champlain Valley just like everyone else. Although they often avoid humans, you may see signs of animals, or the animals themselves, from time to time. The best thing is to keep a safe distance and not make assumptions about animals.
“Just because you see something during the day doesn’t mean it’s sick,” Sausville said.
Bobcats, which are usually active at dusk and in the morning, will become active during the day if they have kittens with them, according to Sausville.
“We always tell people, you know, watch them from a distance and enjoy watching them because they are hard to see,” Sausville said.
Whether the animals are recent or have taken place here for centuries, wildlife is a big part of Vermont, and urban areas are no exception.
Kate O’Farrell is a reporter for the Burlington Free Press. You can contact her at KOFarrell@freepressmedia.com.