A wild cat is a member of the cat family that has not been domesticated. Although these creatures may resemble your furry friend inside your home, wild cats are dangerous predators.
North America is home to six different species of wild cats. In Maine specifically, there are only two wild cats living, but there used to be a third. Scroll down to learn about these types of wild cats that prowl the main forests.
The 2 Types of Wild Cats in Maine
|Scientific Name:||Lynx Rufus|
|Habitat:||All areas around Maine, except dense snow in the Northwest region|
|Conservation Status:||Least Concern|
The Bobcat is relatively common throughout Maine, though it is rare in the northwestern sections that see long, deep winters. These animals are rarely seen in the wild because of their reclusive nature, but they can sometimes be seen in suburban settings where they are looking for easy food.
They prowl environments all around the state, including bushes, rock cliffs, dense woods, and urban settings. The main area where you will not see them is in northwestern territories with dense snow.
The Bobcat is an important part of the ecosystem. It helps to control rodent populations in a natural and safe way. They are known for being opportunistic in that they will eat just about anything. Bobcats have been known to eat hares, mice, and even full-grown deer.
Bobcats are considered of least concern in Maine. The population does face some threats, such as deforestation, vehicle collisions, and rat poison, but the numbers are incredibly stable and increasing in some areas, much to the affected communities’ dismay.
2. Canadian Lynx
|Scientific Name:||Lynx Canadensis|
|Habitat:||Boreal forests, Spruce/Fir forests of the Aroostook and Piscataquis counties|
|Conservation Status:||Federally Threatened|
The second wild cat in Maine is the Canada Lynx or the Canadian Lynx. This species looks very similar to the Bobcat, but it is found in different environments. Whereas the Bobcat avoids dense snow, that is where the Canada Lynx thrives.
As its name suggests, the Canada Lynx is most common in Canadian areas, but it can be found in certain parts of the US. In the United States, it is mainly only found in Alaska, Maine, and other states on the Canadian-US border.
As such, you are only going to find the Canada Lynx in snow-dense areas. Within Maine, it is normally in the northern counties. It likes to hang around spruce/fir forests where the snow depths are the highest. Some individuals have been spotted in the eastern area, but they are most common in northern and western Maine.
The Canada Lynx is considered federally threatened and is a state species of concern. It has been listed as threatened since 2000. Luckily, the numbers have been increasing in Maine, but it is still illegal to hunt or trap the species.
How to Identify Maine Wild Cats
Maine’s Bobcats and Canada Lynx are similar, which can make it difficult to identify the wild cats. Both have a bobbed tail and black-tipped ears. More so, both cats have coats that are light gray, red, and black with spots or stripes.
Despite their similarities, there are some distinguishing factors to help you identify a Bobcat from a Canada Lynx. For starters, the Canada Lynx is larger. It has extra-long legs that make it easier to travel in the snow.
Something else to look at is the ears. Both ears are black-tipped, but the Lynx has much longer tufts that dangle down slightly. In comparison, the Bobcat has a short tuft, which isn’t that noticeable from a distance.
You can also try to identify the wild cat based on location. Canada Lynxes are mainly found up north around dense snows, whereas Bobcats try to avoid dense snow. The location trick won’t work in all cases, but this is generally the case for the species.
Have Any Other Wild Cats Lived in Maine?
According to Maine’s Wildlife Agency, the Bobcat and Canada Lynx are the only wild cats that currently live in Maine. Although this is true today, it has not always been the case.
There have been some Eastern Cougars found in Maine historically. It was believed that the Cougar was found coast to coast before the 1800s, including in Maine. The last known Cougar in Maine was shot in 1938.
Even though the last official cougar was spotted nearly 100 years ago, some Maine residents insist that the cougar is still present. They believe that they have sighted Cougars and that the species is just a skilled hider. Despite these reports, Cougars have not been officially cited in Maine since the 1930s.
Additionally, many people think of Maine Coons when looking for Maine wild cats. Maine Coons can be found in the wild of Maine, but they don’t classify as a wild cat since they are domesticated. For this reason, Maine Coons don’t count as wild cats.
If you talk to state officials, they will tell you that the Bobcat and Canada Lynx are the only wild cats in Maine today. Some people will claim that Cougars are present, but it is unclear if this species still roams Maine’s forest.
As such, you’re unlikely to see a cougar given that the last confirmed sighting has not been spotted since the 1930s. Luckily, you are somewhat likely to see a Bobcat. Canada Lynxes are more difficult to spot, but not impossible.
Featured Image: Jukka Jantunen, Shutterstock