New Brunswick

Rare black bobcat donated to New Brunswick Museum for study

A rare all-black bobcat that was caught in a snare at Christmas will soon be mounted and on public display at the New Brunswick Museum, thanks to donations from a trio of hunting and wildlife groups.

The rare melanistic bobcat is now awaiting taxidermy before going on display in Saint John

The black bobcat trapped by Oswald McFadden on Christmas Day near Cocagne. (Submitted: Charles LeBlanc)

A rare all-black bobcat will soon be on public display at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, thanks to donations from a trio of hunting and wildlife groups. 

Veteran trapper Oswald McFadden snared the melanistic bobcat on Christmas Day, drawing waves of attention online and sparking a bidding war among private collectors. The Cocagne outdoorsman was offered thousands of dollars and an all-inclusive hunting trip out West to give up the cat. 

In the end, McFadden agreed to sell the carcass — for considerably less than what private buyers were offering — to the New Brunswick Wildlife Association, Moncton Area Trappers Council, and New Brunswick Trappers and Fur Harvesters.

The groups immediately donated the bobcat to the New Brunswick Museum. 

Donald McAlpine, research curator and head of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum, says he's happy to have the animal for study and for public display. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
"I'm very happy that we'll have it here at the museum," Donald McAlpine, research curator and head of zoology at the New Brunswick Museum, said Friday. 

"There's actually quite a bit of interest in cats generally, in the genetics of these animals. And everyone agreed it was important to keep this animal in New Brunswick." 

The plan is to have the bobcat mounted, and the museum is now looking for a taxidermist who can do a "museum-grade job," McAlpine said.

The donors said they were motivated by a desire to keep the rare bobcat in New Brunswick.

"We really wanted to keep it close to home," said Kevin White, service president of the Moncton area fur council. "And make it available for the public to enjoy." 

"And it's very fitting to give the animal to the museum, in order for them to study, because it's so rare."

The coat and skin of the rare bobcat are completely black, but the species' characteristic spots and markings can still be seen under bright lights. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
The bobcat's all-black fur, a rarity not only within the species but the cat family as well, is attributed to the bobcat's rare genetics.

Before the cat was trapped in December, McAlpine was only aware of two other melanistic bobcats being recorded in New Brunswick. But with the recent interest in the animal, he said, he has come across more cases of the all-black animal.

"I've been doing a bit of checking around and it turns out there are about five or six cases of melanism in bobcats in New Brunswick," McAlpine said. "It's quite unusual. Most other cases of melanism in these cats are contained to animals in more tropical regions." 

Other than the handful of New Brunswick cases, only a dozen other black bobcats have been recorded, all from southern Florida. 

Researchers are puzzled as to why the rare bobcats have only been found in New Brunswick and southern Florida. (Shane Fowler/CBC)
"I was recently contacted by some researchers in the States who happen to be sequencing the entire genome of both the bobcat and the lynx," said McAlpine. "So I was able to let them know that we have tissue samples from some of these rare animals, as well as samples from some of our lynx-bobcat hybrids."

McFadden was offered thousands of dollars from private collectors and groups for his Christmas Day catch. He was also offered a trade for an all-inclusive elk-hunting trip in the West, but turned all of the private offers down to keep the animal in the province. 

"It's really great to see that he was able to assist us on this," White said. "It's not about a greed complex. It was very much about providing the specimen for public education going ahead."


Shane Fowler


Shane Fowler has been a CBC journalist based in Fredericton since 2013.