Ecologists captured a rare sighting of a bobcat roaming around the Bronx River recently, offering yet another sign that the waterway has made quite the comeback in recent years.
Queens College students Angelinna Bradfield and Ritika Nath, engaged in a 15-month research project studying mammal diversity in the Bronx River and just learned about the sighting this month. This happened after one of the students changed the SD card in one of the trail cameras in the park set up as part of the project.
Dr. Bobby Habig, National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Queens College who also works for the Department of Education at the American Museum of Natural History, said the bobcat was found in an undisclosed greenspace in the Bronx portion of the River, which runs all the way through Westchester County. Habig asked the location be kept private to protect the animal's space.
"We had our cameras on the Bronx River for the last 15 months," Dr. Habig said. "And that's the only time we've recorded them on any of our cameras."
How the bobcat made its way to the city is up in the air, though he does point out that these large cats are native to New York (typically found in the Adirondack, Catskill and Taconic regions). He theorizes that since the Bronx is the only borough linked to the continental U.S., it's conceivable that these animals are simply foraging for a variety of food sources.
"My guess is that there's probably some food sources that were available there," Dr. Habig said. "And that's why they moved down south on the Bronx River."
It also helps that the Bronx River supplies fresh water, attracting wildlife.
The Bronx River has also made quite the comeback from the days when it was a veritable dumping ground for cars, forcing wildlife to flee. Following decades-long efforts to turn the Bronx River around, wildlife have since returned.
As a research scientist for Gotham Coyote Project—which tracks wildlife at 31 different parks—Dr. Habig has noted 20 different animal speices spotted in the Bronx River over the last three years, including muskrats, flying squirrels, and a white-tailed deer. No animal has been as prevalent as the coyote, however. Dr. Habig interpreted this as a sign of the river is a lot healthier these days.
"What our study is showing you is that if you allocate greenspaces, especially forested spaces to animals in park areas you can get pretty high, biodiversity even in densely populated cities," he said.