The Forest in winter

 

 
Fall has finally come to an end here in the forest and winter is most certainly here! Many flora and fauna of the forest have begun their dormancy for the winter, however some species embrace the challenge that winter imposes. As food resources dwindle many animals are forced to travel and locate any available food sources. This creates the perfect opportunity for researchers to collect data on animals moving throughout the forest. Dr Scott LaPoint, Black Rock Forest’s research scientist will continue his work on the Hudson Highlands Wildlife Connectivity project using cameras to collect images of carnivores within the forest. 
 
Dr LaPoint specializes in studying mesocarnivores such as Fisher (Pekania pennanti), but has also begun to explore the use of Black Rock Forest by Bobcats (Lynx rufus). Bobcats like the one pictured above, spend the majority of the year in solitude but will begin searching for a winter mate during the winter months.  Dr LaPoint is eager to determine what landscape features are important to bobcats and what features create barriers or challenges for them. Wildlife corridors are essential for healthy ecosystems and understanding how animals use them is critical for future generations. Trail cameras give us a unique look into the lives of these secretive cats as they move throughout the forest. 
 
Many homeowners use trail cameras to see what’s been invading their garden or tampering with their bird feeders, but these cameras provide more than just pictures. The data from these cameras provide insights into how animals move throughout the landscape, time of travel, distance traveled and can even record behavior. Using cameras spread out strategically across the forest, researchers begin to collect thousands of images in a short period of time. These images contain clues that help us assemble the puzzle of the bobcat’s daily life. 
 
Throughout the course of the year we have been lucky enough to capture images of two adult bobcats with kittens in tow. A mother with kittens is a huge discovery for researchers looking to study how bobcats move throughout the forest. Not only does it prove that Black Rock Forest is home to more than one individual, but that the resources and landscape provide enough for the mother to raise her kittens here. These kittens provide an opportunity to study dispersal from the mother, home range size, and what landscape features are most important for their survival. As the snow begins to fall on the forest floor and temperatures remain near freezing, both the Bobcats and researchers will have their work cut out for them this winter. 
 
Aaron Culotta
Environmental Educator and Visitor Services Coordinator
Black Rock Forest