Large wildlife call Middlebury home



Middlebury Animal Control Officer Rusty Bona said, “There is a lot of wildlife in Middlebury!” Last month we considered the smaller creatures; this month we consider the larger ones.

There are the ubiquitous deer, who do seem to wait until your car is right beside them to make their mad dash across the road. Thus far no moose have been sighted in Middlebury, but take care as they have been sighted in nearby towns and one in 50 moose-car accidents ends in a driver fatality – a far worse outcome than a deer-car collision.

Other than the deer, our largest wild residents are foxes, bobcats, bears and coyotes. None generally pose a risk to humans given appropriate behavior on our part. It is critical we don’t leave food out to encourage them to come around our homes. That includes pet food, and, regrettably, small pets. Bona said, “I would not let any of my animals out unsupervised.” He would know.

This bobcat is one of many living around Middlebury and Oxford. (Paul J. Fusco/CT DEEP-Wildlife photo)

Bobcats are increasing in number and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) lists them as our top predator. They are beautiful but quite shy. They are what is known as an ambush predator, much like the domestic cat, and will wait to pounce on their prey (from small animals to deer). You’re lucky to see one. In the realm of felines, there have been confirmed sightings of mountain lions (also known as cougars) over the last several years, but there is no evidence of a resident population.

Middlebury does have a large resident population of foxes and coyotes. Sadly, the fox population is heavily afflicted with mange this year, which results in a sad, slow death for them. It is not a risk to humans.

DEEP says coyotes in the Northeast are larger than their western cousins, ranging from 30-50 pounds, apparently due to some interbreeding with wolves as they moved east. They are monogamous and mate for life. The DEEP fact sheets says they mate from January to March and the pups are born in April to mid-May. The parents share raising of their pups. Coyotes are most vocal in late summer and fall, when you might hear the family yipping and howling together.

While coyotes are a threat to small animals, DEEP says the risk to humans is extremely low. It advises children should be taught that if they see a coyote, they should wave their arms, yell but not run away; instead move slowly into the house or up on a swing or high place. Even large dogs may be at risk running loose in the woods as they may inadvertently go near a den or young, and that can provoke coyotes to attack.

We also have black bears. They typically are harmless unless they become too habituated to humans, or if a person gets near their young or they are feeding. The do’s and don’ts are numerous. I suggest a visit to the CT DEEP website,, for a full list. What can make for a problem bear is one very habituated to humans – especially if they have been fed by people either intentionally (an incredibly bad and dangerous practice) or accidentally (from bird feeders, or unsecured garbage).

The situation with bears is similar to that with coyotes: consider yourself lucky to see such a wonderful animal, keep your distance, and keep your pets away from them. All of our wildlife, big and small, are a delightful perk of living in the town of Middlebury, with all of its diverse natural environments, many conserved by the Middlebury Land Trust,


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