Are bobcats moving higher north and into higher elevations? That is what a UNBC researcher is trying to find out, using photos submitted by the public.

TJ Gooliaff is studying the effects of climate change over the last 30 years on lynx and bobcats, and is looking for photos of both animals to try to see if bobcats are moving deeper and higher into BC. He is looking for photos of both cats from all over BC, caught on trail cams or regular cameras at any time, to help determine if their ranges have changed.

Gooliaff is a Master of Science candidate at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan, and is currently working in partnership with the Ministry of Environment. He says historically, bobcats and lynx have been typically separated by snow depth. Lynx, found in the boreal forests across Canada and Alaska and the mountain ranges to the south, have extremely long legs and large snowshoe-like paws, making them well adapted for traveling across deep snow.

In contrast, Gooliaff says, bobcats are heavier, have small feet, and sink into the snow. They are typically found throughout the deserts and grasslands of the US and southern Canada. However, climate change has led to earlier springs and lower snow levels in western North America. As a result, suitable bobcat habitat may now be present in new areas of BC.

Gooliaff is using photos of bobcats and lynx submitted by the public to help map the current provincial distribution of both species to determine if their ranges have shifted in response to climate change.

“I hypothesize that bobcats have moved northwards and into higher elevations,” says Gooliaff. The reasoning, he says, is that bobcats may be expanding northwards and into higher elevations as snow levels have dropped and springs come earlier. Lynx, which are tightly tied to the snow which gives them a competitive advantage over other predators, may also have pushed into higher elevations to keep up with the declining snow, he says.

“I would be surprised if there are any bobcats in the Robson Valley but there are some not too far south around Clearwater,” says Gooliaff. “However, there should be lots of lynx in that country.”

The photos will be used only to collect species information and location, says Gooliaff, not for management decisions such as hunting and trapping bag limits or season dates. Photographers will retain ownership of their photos, and they will not be shared without permission. The results of the study will be shared with all those who are interested, says Gooliaff.

Send photos with date and location information or any questions about the study to [email protected]

Lynx or bobcat: spot the difference

Though people may sometimes confuse the two wild cats, bobcats (lynx rufus) and lynx (lynx canadensis) are completely different species, says TJ Gooliaff, Master of Science candidate at the University of British Columbia, Okanagan.

“Bobcats are shorter, have a straight back, small ear tuffs, a longer tail with a black and white tip, and are usually brownish with some sort of spot pattern. Lynx are taller, have an arched back, larger ear tuffs, a shorter tail with a completely black tip, and are grayish in colour.” Because they are lighter with longer legs and big paws, lynx can travel well in the snow, while bobcats are typically found in more desert and grassland habitat.