Monday, June 1, 2009

Bobcat!

I spent the weekend helping with the Birding by Ear event at the Wilds in Muskingum County, and we had a great time. Tons of interesting birds, and lots of great photos to share. I’ll get to that stuff in later blogs. But for now, I want to share one of the most exciting moments, which involved a wild cat! Read on…

In a moment of fortuitous prescience, I snapped this photo from the site of the science camp, where our group was based. I just thought it was a particularly showy vista, but later that evening we would see a Bobcat on that gravel road, about halfway between the bend and the point where the road disappears at the bottom of the photo.

Sharp-eyed Dan Vargo spotted a mammal leisurely strolling down the road, as we stood around enjoying the sunset on Saturday evening. I glanced over, took a peek through my binoculars, and saw it was a Bobcat, Lynx rufus, my first wild sighting in spite of many years of looking. This photo is unedited, and shows the cat shortly after we first spotted it. It is the little whitish lump along the right side of the road, in the center of the photo.

The cat was far off, and the light was waning, but we still enjoyed fantastic looks. My hunch was that the cat was hunting Eastern Cottontails, as scores of young rabbits are out now, and I had seen several along that very road.

We had time to get all twenty or so people involved with our group out to see it, and even got two scopes set up which allowed for excellent views. The Bobcat clearly saw us, but we were far enough off that it didn’t care. The photo above is an uncropped shot as it ambled across the road. Unfortunately the distance and dim light conspired to prevent obtaining good photos.

But, blown up a bit, there is no doubt about the identity. Note the stubby tail, and long-legged big-pawed appearance. Through the scopes, we could see everything – tawny-rufous coloration, dark blotches around the legs, characteristic vertical dark stripes on the face, and of course the stubby little tail. Bobcats are not large – a big one might hit 30 lbs.

Here’s the Bobcat Crew: Erin, Josh, Dan, Mark, Jean, and Jason. Thinking ourselves clever, we splintered off from the rest of our group, and snuck towards the cat. The Bobcat, of course, was hardly outwitted by our clumsy efforts to get nearer and obtain better photos, but we did manage to gain some distance on it before the cat began leisurely ambling back up the road. Needless to say, we are all very thrilled with this unexpected sighting, and it was a “life mammal” for nearly all if not all.

Bobcats are really on the comeback trail in Ohio, and sightings have been increasing almost exponentially each year. By the mid-1800’s they had been eliminated from the state, and the rebound has been slow. As recently as 2000, there were hardly any confirmed sightings. In 2008, there were 65 verified observations. Southeastern Ohio, including Muskingum County and the Wilds, is the epicenter of Bobcat reports, and hopefully the numbers of these spectacular little felines will continue to increase.

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8 comments:

Julie Zickefoose said...

Felisitations on your maiden bobcat. Now that you've made the first sighting, I bet you'll see them all over the place! I have tracks and scat from our place--even a lair--but as yet haven't seen one here. TX and ND, but not Ohio. I'd say that's a major score.

Heather said...

Nice report on the sighting, Jim. And to think, I almost missed it altogether because I was feeling crappy and wanted to get to bed early that night. Thankfully Laura clued me in to what was going on and I got a look at the Bobber in the scope. It was truly spectacular, and certainly a life mammal for me!

Jared said...

Awesome. I'd love to see either a Bobcat or a Black Bear in Ohio. Great find; I'm sure one could go a lifetime walking Ohio's natural areas and never see one.

Jenn Jilks said...

We have a wee red fox in My Muskoka, not as exciting as your story! :-)

gracenme said...

Oh my gosh! what a fantastic sighting. only wish I had been there.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

Each time we hike where Bobcats "should" be, I hope, eagerly to catch a glimpse--though I know their secretive nature probably sends them for cover with our first step on the trail.
Never have seen one--
a sighting would be fantastic!!

Anonymous said...

Hi,
What makes a Bobcat purr?
H.H.

KatDoc said...

Cool! I'm jealous.

~(bob)KatDoc