Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bobcat!

Seeing any species of wild cat is always a thrill. Just about all of them, at least in the Americas, are uncommon and very secretive. Wild cats are among the hardest of the large mammals to observe.


Thus, it was exciting to get a beautiful photograph of a Bobcat, Lynx rufus, sent to me by Laura Stalder. Laura captured it on film over in Monroe County in the fall of 2006. Monroe County, in extreme eastern Ohio, probably is near the center of Bobcat abundance in Ohio, as most of them are found in the hilly unglaciated southeastern region of the state.




One of the best shots I've seen of a wild Ohio Bobcat. These are not large animals; they average about 36 inches long and a big one would be 30 pounds. Larger house cats, especially brown or silver forms of cats like Maine Coons and Norwegian Forest Cats, can be mistaken for them and sometimes are. That's why it's great to get absolutely convincing documentation like Laura's photo.

Bobcats nearly disappeared from Ohio in the early to mid 1900's. I don't have Gottschang's Mammals of Ohio at hand to consult, which was published in 1981, but it seems I recall he either listed Bobcat as extirpated or very rare. With the massive deforestation of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, this mammal had become a rarity indeed.

As the forests on eastern and southern Ohio have matured, Bobcat habitat has gotten steadily better and reports of these little cats have been on the upswing.


A chart, courtesy of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, showing the steady upsurge in records of Bobcats over the past decade. In 2005, there were 65 unverified reports, and 20 confirmed sightings. The following year, 2006, unverified sightings spiked to 134, and confirmed sightings numbered 37. We can add Laura's record to the pool. I personally don't feel that this increase in numbers reflects more sophisticated observers afield and actively searching out Bobcats. Finding one of these wild cats always ranks among the more serendipitous of Ohio mammals sightings, and unless one is actively tracking dens or using squeal calls or some sort of lure, you've just got to be lucky.

I think there has just been a steady increase in Ohio's Bobcat population, and as there are more of them to be seen, more people are seeing them.

Here is a map showing the Ohio distribution of Bobcats, based on modern reports. This map also courtesy the Ohio Division of Wildlife. So, keep your eyes peeled, and if you stumble into a Bobcat, or know of any recent records, please let me know. And thanks to Laura Stalder for sharing her wonderful photo - great work!

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jim,
There was a story in the Dayton Daily News this winter about bobcat prints found at Germantown MetroPark. The link is too long for this comment, but if you google- bobcat germantown ohio
it's the top item.
Brian Menker

Tom said...

So the whole family is sitting down at our condo's deck in Florida for dinner, and all of the sudden, through the hedges, coming from the huge house next door, some guy says "be careful, there is a bobcat around, you might want to watch your animals, dogs, cats, etc."

We all looked at each other and thought the guy was crazy, but apparently there are bobcats on the relatively well populated Sanibel island- Crazy...I never saw one though, and certainly didn't get any images as nice as that bobcat shot!

Tom

Greg said...

Jim,

I am curious about the map the DOW has published. It includes Lucas County - where can I find out more about Bobcat reports from Lucas? I am very skeptical.

Thanks,

Greg L.
harpy@buckeye-express.com

ALP813 said...

Good shot!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Allie said...

I live next to a highway, but we have quite a large backyard and there are quite a few trees. Our backyard is often frequented by deer and rabbits, as well, but today I went adventuring back there. I found some unusually large paw prints, and after some research, I've found they look rather similar to bobcat tracks. They're about as big as the palm of my hand, I'd say... As for my location, I'm somewhere in between Monroe (not the county) and downtown Hamilton, OH. Any ideas as to whether or not this is/could be a bobcat? Thanks! :3

Bill Rickman said...

We are camping in southeastern Ohio at East Fork state park. While hiking in woods with my boys we sighted what we thought was a large cat or even larger squirrel because of color. The issue was that it had stubby tail and bushy face. After searching on line we came to the bobcat sight and the photo of the bobcat that was all brownish in color is what we saw in the woods 100%. I always had thought they were with spots. I am now (along with my boy's) a bit more educated on the wildlife in this area. Knowing now what we saw it was very exciting!

Jen Hooper said...

Is a subsample of the Ohio bobcat population radio collared/tagged?