GLADSTONE, N.J. — The Nature Conservancy returns to sponsor the Third Annual $10,000 Bobcat Derby Day, Thursday, Aug.15, during Monmouth at the Team, presented by Precise Buildings. The popular boutique hunter/jumper horse show runs Aug.12-19 at historic Hamilton Farm, the headquarters of the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation.

"We are so grateful to The Nature Conservancy for sponsoring the Bobcat Derby," said Tucker Ericson, co-owner of Monmouth at the Team. "Everyone gets into the spirit. It is such a fun way to help promote The Nature Conservancy's important message about habitat protection."

Since the late 1950s, The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect New Jersey’s land, freshwater resources and coastal habitats. The membership-funded 401c3 nonprofit organization sponsors the Bobcat Derby—one of the largest hunter derbies in the U.S. — to raise awareness of their work, including a current key land protection initiative in the Garden State: a 32,000-acre forested corridor where New Jersey’s last remaining wild felines, bobcats, can thrive.

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The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey chapter, based out of Chester, N.J., will have a table on site for the duration of the Monmouth at the Team event, where guests can learn more about bobcat conservation efforts, collect free swag and enter to win prizes like bobcat sunshirts, bespoke paintings and private nature-oriented experiences. On Bobcat Derby Day, riders who don bobcat ears for their rounds get an extra point in the competition; winners in each height division will receive a bobcat-spotted championship coolers and plush bobcat puppets, and the top eight finishers will receive custom Nature Conservancy bobcat-patterned saddle pads. The Conservancy will also host a free themed photo booth and custom-flavor ice cream outpost for guests during the afternoon. New for 2019, during the ice cream social and photo booth fun from 1-3 p.m., entered derby riders will have the opportunity to take The Nature Conservancy’s Bobcat Challenge, a fun website scavenger hunt. The two highest scorers on this digital quiz will earn automatic free rides in the second round of the Bobcat Derby.

Bobcats went virtually extinct in New Jersey in the 1970s, and conservation groups reintroduced a small number of cats in the 1980s to restore ecosystem balance (bobcats help keep rodent populations under control). The species has established a tenuous foothold but remains under a struggling state-endangered status. Car impacts continue to be the chief cause of bobcat mortality in New Jersey, since the cats travel an average of seven miles per day to feed, rest and reproduce.

Support from equestrians at Monmouth at the Team gives a critical boost to The Nature Conservancy for creating “Bobcat Alley," a habitat corridor spanning from the Highlands to the Appalachian mountain ranges in northern New Jersey, and connecting to vast protected forested regions in the New York and Pennsylvania. The Nature Conservancy and partners are aiming to connect and protect 3,500 acres within this mosaic of lands to ensure the migration route stays healthy and intact for bobcats and other wildlife.

Thanks to awareness initiatives like the Bobcat Derby, and generous donations from supporters, the project is on track to reach 41% of that goal by the end of 2019. It is a big accomplishment, but there are many hundreds of more acres yet to go.

“The bobcat is not only an iconic American mammal, but with their shy and elusive tendencies they are also one of the last truly wild animals in New Jersey,” said Eric Olsen, director of land programs for The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey Chapter. “It is not only an ecological imperative, but also a matter of famous New Jersey state pride to protect these cats here.”

For more information about The Nature Conservancy in New Jersey and Bobcat Alley see https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/new-jersey/.

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