WASHINGTON - Park officials knew they were out there, but there was no evidence of bobcats in Prince William Forest Park until now: One was spotted in two separate photos in the park last month.
This photo was taken just after 10 p.m. on Nov. 21. Another picture of the same cat was taken on Nov. 8, says Paul Peterson, chief of resource management for the park.
"We were very excited to finally get a photo. That was great. It's something we've been looking for," Peterson says.
A carnivore study suggested that Prince William Forest Park had a small population of bobcats, but no one had seen a cat until these photos. Officials posted one on the park's Facebook page.
The black bars on the animal's front legs indicate that it is a bobcat, Peterson says.
"They are very reclusive. We've known they've been around for years ... We've been waiting to get a photo. We've been putting cameras out all over the place."
Nearby Quantico Marine Base recently got a third photo of another bobcat that was larger. Peterson called it a "decent-sized bobcat."
Bobcats are much harder to find and get DNA from, Peterson says.
"The only way people see them is by sheer luck or in this case by these photo cameras," he says.
Officials with Prince William Forest Park set up four cameras to capture wildlife, but the camera that caught this bobcat was set up along a trail by a researcher, Peterson says. The researcher had placed five cameras around the park and was moving them every few weeks.
There's a chance the bobcat was on the trail hunting. The animals prey on small mammals like squirrels, rabbits, birds and mice.
The park does not know how many bobcats live there. Peterson says they have yet to conduct a study on the population dynamics.
"We're actually starting to move that direction with the coyote population. This summer, we're working with a researcher to get good analysis on what the [coyote] population is like," Peterson says.
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