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The Bay Lynx: A New State Wildlife Symbol?

The bobcat
The bobcat, or bay lynx, was proposed as the state wildlife symbol.
(Photo courtesy DesertUSA)
By Stephanie Barrett
Capital News Service
Thursday, Feb. 29, 1996

ANNAPOLIS - For years, Carroll County resident Jim Wolff has had big ideas for the bay lynx, better known as the bobcat.

His most recent idea: Make it the state wildlife symbol.

In a House Commerce and Government Matters Committee hearing Thursday, Wolff urged legislators to add the bay lynx to the list of official state symbols, putting it in the esteemed company of the diamondback terrapin, the blue crab, the Baltimore oriole and the Chesapeake Bay retriever.

"Let's claim the bay lynx as our own," urged Wolff, who lives in Eldersburg. "No other state has it as a state animal."

No one testified against the bill, but in a telephone interview, Robert Colona, a wildlife biologist for Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, gave some ammunition to potential opponents.

"There's no such animal as the bay lynx," Colona said. "It's a colloquial term for the bobcat."

The lynx and bobcat are related, but they are separate species. The lynx has bigger and longer legs, Colona said.

"Different colloquial terms are used in different parts of the country," Colona said, adding that the name bay lynx "was indicative of the Bay of Fundy [in Canada]."

Wolff, however, insisted the bay lynx should be associated with Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. It's found "in all the north counties for sure," he said in an interview.

Colona confirmed his claim. While the exact population is not known, he said, "In Maryland, we have bobcats in good numbers in Garrett, Allegany and Washington counties."

Their numbers begin to decrease in the Hagerstown area, but there have been sporadic bobcat sightings -- maybe once every five years -- north of Baltimore, around the Washington, D.C., Beltway and in southern Maryland. No bobcats have been found on the Eastern Shore, Colona said.

The bay lynx state emblem bill was introduced as a courtesy to Wolff by former Del. Richard Dixon, the Carroll County Democrat who recently became state treasurer.

Wolff doesn't limit his ambitions for the bay lynx to emblem status. He wants National Football League owner Art Modell to adopt the beast as mascot to the new Baltimore team.

The bobcat provides "the right image for any team," Wolff said. They are strong and stealthy animals, willing to "attack animals many times their size."

Colona said a bobcat can weigh anywhere from 15 to 30 pounds. It primarily eats small animals, such as mice and songbirds. But he added, one would kill a white-tailed deer, "given the right circumstances and right place."

Wolff teamed up with another Carroll County resident, cashier and struggling artist Trish Suder, to bring his idea to life. At Thursday's hearing, Wolff's 14-year-old son, David, held up Suder's drawing of their mascot.

The cat was depicted with a big head and big feet, and it carried an oriole by the neck.

Committee members laughed as they saw the picture, and as Wolff explained that part of his plan is to have the bay lynx mascot chase the oriole before baseball games at Camden Yards.

"It would be a new version of Tweety and Sylvester," he said.

Wolff and his partner have already designed a cat-like cheerleader, a pennant and sweatshirts. They have even designed place mats with a bay lynx sketch for use in fast-food restaurants.

And he hopes the General Assembly will pass the bay lynx bill this session, because, he acknowledged, "that gives us legitimacy."

Copyright 2001 University of Maryland College of Journalism

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