Gladstone, N.J. – July 31, 2017 – The Nature Conservancy will sponsor the first-ever $10,000 Bobcat Derby Day on Thursday, Aug. 17 during Monmouth at the Team, presented by Precise Buildings. The show is scheduled for Aug.14-20 at historic Hamilton Farm, the headquarters of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation. In its debut in 2016, Monmouth at the Team was named New Jersey Horse Show Association’s Horse Show of the Year.
The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect New Jersey’s lands and waters since the late 1950s. Currently, one of their key initiatives is to build a protected corridor of habitat for New Jersey’s last remaining wild feline, the bobcat (Lynx rufus). The land The Conservancy is actively protecting in the northwestern part of the state is informally called “Bobcat Alley.”
Bobcats essentially went extinct in New Jersey in the 1970s. Conservation groups imported 24 cats from Maine in the 1980s as a means of reintroducing this important native species to the area, and the population has gained traction but remains under a struggling state-endangered status.
“The bobcat is an iconic American mammal,” said Eric Olsen, Lands Director for The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey Chapter. “I consider them to be one of the last examples of a truly wild animal in New Jersey. They are shy and elusive and really don’t like to interact with people.”
The size of a large house cat, bobcats provide ecosystem balance by hunting rabbits and rodents. They travel an average of seven miles per day as they feed, rest and reproduce. Car impacts are the leading cause of bobcat mortality in New Jersey. Bobcat Alley is intended to provide room to roam for the cats with fewer busy roadways in their paths.
“We’ve been working in Warren and Sussex counties, which is really the epicenter of bobcat activity in the state,” said Olsen. “There is already a good solid base of protected lands there, including two Nature Conservancy preserves that anchor Bobcat Alley. When complete, the greenway will span between two New Jersey mountain ranges, the Appalachians and the Highlands, and connect out to additional protected lands in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.”
The Nature Conservancy is a 401c3 nonprofit and does not receive government funding. Sponsoring Monmouth at the Team, is a way for The Conservancy staff to have face time in the community and build awareness of the Bobcat Alley project, as well as conservation work around freshwater and the Jersey Shore. “Equestrians love nature, so there is a good synergy with the audience at this competition,” said Olsen.
The Nature Conservancy will have a booth at Monmouth at the Team where visitors can visit Bobcat Alley using virtual reality goggles, enter to win a GoPro camera, sponsor a bobcat, get free swag or learn more about opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature in New Jersey. On Bobcat Derby Day, The Conservancy will be giving out bobcat ear headbands to set the evening’s tone.
Click here for more information about The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey and Bobcat Alley.