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.
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!