Identifying Rare Mammals
On this page:
- New England Cottontail Rabbit
- Lynx vs. Bobcat: Know the Difference
- Track & Track Patterns for Bobcat, Lynx, Coyote, and Domestic Dogs
- Maine Mammal Tracks
Large coyotes (50+ pounds) have been reported in Maine, but they are uncommon. Any canid 50 pounds or greater may be a wolf, wolf-hybrid, or domestic dog. Maine law protects all wildlife from hunting or trapping when there is not a specific hunting or trapping season for the species. It is also illegal to indiscriminately shoot domestic dogs or wolf-hybrids. We have documented several wolves and wolf hybrids over the last 20 years in Maine. In most cases, we believe these animals were released from captivity. However, wild wolves have been trapped in southern Quebec and it would have been possible for these animals to travel into Maine. Please use care in identifying any large canids you encounter. If you suspect you have a canine in a trap that is over 4.5 ft. in length (tip of nose to tip of tail) and is over 50 pounds, contact MDIFW before dispatching the animal.
Cougars have been extirpated from much of their historic range in eastern North America. The last cougar killed in Maine was in Somerset County on the Maine/ Quebec border in 1938. More recently, a 3-year-old male cougar from the Black Hills of South Dakota was struck and killed by a vehicle in Milford, Connecticut in 2011 (a distance of >2,000 km). Cougars have been sporadically documented in eastern Canada from known mortalities (3 cougars) or DNA (17 cougars) in Quebec from 1992- 2011. The Department receives possible cougar sightings each year, but most lack physical evidence. If you see a cougar or other evidence of a cougar (e.g., tracks, scat), take photos and contact a regional wildlife biologist.
New England Cottontail Rabbits
If you are trapping in southern Maine, MDIFW would like to know if you accidentally trap or see New England cottontail rabbits. Cottontail rabbits are smaller than snowshoe hare, have hind feet less than 4 inches in length, and do not turn white in the winter. Their coat remains brown all year round. Please let us know about any rabbits you see. This is Maine’s only native rabbit and MDIFW is actively trying to restore its population. Identifying new areas where the rabbit occurs could greatly benefit restoration efforts. If you accidentally capture a cottontail rabbit, please contact a regional wildlife biologist.
Lynx vs. Bobcat: Know the Difference
If you trap a bobcat that looks like a cross between a lynx and a bobcat, we would like to know about it. We have recovered several lynx-bobcat hybrids in north central Maine and are interested in documenting other specimens. Remember, if you are uncertain whether you have trapped a lynx or a bobcat please call a biologist or warden before dispatching the animal. If you have already dispatched the animal, and think it has unusual characteristics for a bobcat, we are still interested in seeing it.
|Ear Tufts||Generally greater than 1"||Generally less than 1"|
|Facial Ruffs||Larger facial ruffs with black banding at outer edges||Smaller facial ruffs with less distinct banding on outer edge|
|More uniform coat color. Generally grey pelt including the back of the hind legs. Belly fur greyish white with some black spots.||Reddish brown pelt with distinctive dark brown fur along the back of the hind legs. Belly fur white with distinct black spots.|
|Tail Color||Generally matches body color except the entire tip (about the last 1") is black||Usually has dark bars and the tip of the tail is black on upper side but is white on underside|
|Large and snowshoe-like feet and hind legs are longer than the front, giving a “stooped” appearance||Smaller feet (proportional to body) and hind legs are not as long as lynx|
|Track Size||In dirt: up to 3 3/8" wide x 3 ¾" long
In snow: up to 5 ½"" wide x 5 ½" long
|In dirt: up to 2 5/8" wide x 2 ½" long
In snow: up to 2 ½" wide x 2 ½" long
Track & Track Patterns for Bobcat, Lynx, Coyote, and Domestic Dogs
|Species||General Shape||Walking Stride||Print Size
|Bobcat||General round appearance. Heel points in slightly different direction than toes. No nail marks, but if present, attached to toe marks.||11" to 23"||Lengt: 1 7/8" to 2 ½"
Width:1 7/8" to 2 5/8"
|Direct or double register walking pattern. Trail pattern zigzags right-left-right-left.|
|Lynx||Same as bobcat but tracks show a lot more hair. Smaller pads than a cougar.||15" to 31"||Length: 3 ¼" to 3 ¾"
Width: 3" to 3 3/8"
Outline of hair impression:
Length: 4 ½" to 5 3/8"
Width: 3 3/8" to 5 ½"
|Same as bobcat|
|Coyote||4 toes, oval shaped track. Front nails often close together. Side nails often do not register.||Eastern:
17 ½" to 26"
Length: 2 7/8" to 3 ½"
Width: 1 7/8" - 2 ½"
|Trail pattern usually is in a straight line. Walking pattern is usually direct registering|
|Dog||Similar to wolves and coyotes. Inner toes often splayed outwards.||Varies with breed||Varies with breed||Trail pattern sloppy, wandering, not usually in a straight line. Walking pattern is often double register.|
Maine Mammal Tracks
F - Front track
H - Hind track
T - Tail marks may be present
Tracks Not to Scale
Sizes indicate length of tracks. Depending on the substrate (snow, mud, dust, sand, etc.) and the speed the animal was moving, tracks may show great variability in their appearance.