By Jennifer Ward
While the only cats students hope to see on campus are house cats, that is not always the case. Sightings of bobcats in the wooded areas surrounding the campus recently caused panic in the community.
Kelly Gleeson, a freshman psychology major, is one of the students who have spotted bobcats around campus.
“It was across the street and it went to the wooded areas, closer to the Central Two parking lots. It was just walking through the woods and I was like ‘is that a bobcat?’” Gleeson said.
Opposed to what many may think, bobcats aren’t a threat at all. According to The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), bobcats can be found in a quarter of New York State. Earlier this month, reports of bobcats were alerted in the neighboring town of Rye Brook.
“Me, being a dumbass white person, decided to go investigate. I saw it was a bobcat near the woods of Wayback,” Oli Paul, a freshman new media major, said. “Ignore them, and they’ll ignore you.”
While some may think that bobcats are uncommon, they have actually been living in the woods on campus for years, where they have co-existed in their habitat along with the residents of Purchase.
“There’s a huge fear of the unknown. It’s interesting and we’re all learning as we go,” Michael Kopas, Senior Director of Facilities on campus, said. “We’ll just continue to monitor and make sure everything is seen. If there was concern it would be noticeable, we just have to be cognitive of where we are.”
Bobcats cause no harm to humans at all normally, according to environmental studies professor, Allyson Jackson.
“They won’t come up to you, they’re not aggressive. They’ll just run away and you may just be the lucky one who saw one of the bobcats,” Jackson said. “They are probably one of the only predator species that we have. I don’t think they are very much a threat at all.”
Many environmental studies students have been known to spot the bobcats while conducting labs and have seen them through trail cams. Bobcats must remain desensitized to humans, so members of the community are urged not to leave out trash or food, and if approached by a bobcat, they are encouraged to yell to scare it away. As long as they have a consistent fear of humans, bobcats are of no harm.
“We want people to reach out to us so we can respond properly in the area, we would call the proper resources for guidance and take care of the situation,” University Police Department Chief Dayton Tucker said. “We want to know where they are, we want to saturate the area.”
Actually, coyotes are occasionally spotted on campus as well. Students are also assured that they are also not threats and they will avoid humans as well.
Jackson warns that if a bobcat spots a community member and doesn’t run away immediately, call the UPD immediately. Although they are not a threat in that situation, they may be sick or wounded and all are urged to alert the proper authorities.
“Yelling at them isn’t to save yourself, it’s a service to the animals so they have a fear. We don’t want to be putting out food or anything because then the county gets involved,” Jackson said. “They will trap it and kill it. I don’t want that happening. They just need to stay in their forest.”
Kopas warned that although humans are safe, small animals may not be. Although illegal, many dog owners take their dogs on walks in the woods on campus without leashes. This can cause dangerous scenarios for the dogs. Although humans aren’t prey for bobcats, small pets may fall into that category.
“Humans aren’t at risk, but animals are. Letting your cats roam alone outside, or walking your dog without a leash? That’s tempting fate to put our animals at risk,” said Jackson. “I do think it’s fair we warn our community so everyone knows what they’re getting into.”
Although some fear was established throughout the student body, some humor was developed as well. Students began spamming memes and jokes all over social media platforms about bobcat sightings.
“As long as there was a laugh out loud in there, I really don’t see the issue,” Tucker said. “The last thing we want our students to feel is fear.”