Re-emergence of bobcats in Ohio ‘cause for celebration’

Columbus — The Ohio DNR is urging all Ohio residents to be on the lookout for bobcats. That’s right, lynx rufus, the elusive and once-extirpated bobcat is on the comeback.

Anyone who spots one should report it to the agency’s wildlife division at http://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/speciessighting/.

After being extirpated in the state nearly 170 years ago, bobcats are once again becoming a feature of Ohio’s natural landscape.

“So far in 2017, we have more than 500 verified sightings in 46 counties – and we’re still counting,” said Mike Reynolds, a biologist with the agency’s wildlife division.

Bobcats are traditional woodland dwellers. As a result, they are likely moving into the state’s agricultural areas, using tree cover provided by river and creek corridors, Reynolds noted.

An example is Big Darby Creek between Madison and Franklin counties. In July, a trail camera caught a bobcat prowling Prairie Oaks MetroPark, which is near the county line. Another was roadkilled near the U.S. 62 and Interstate 71 interchange, south of Columbus. A third was killed near the Big Darby headwaters in Union County.

Verified sightings were also recorded in unlikely places like Fayette, Pickaway, Clark, Hamilton, and Holmes counties. Fairfield County had nine.

“It’s incredible throughout Ohio,” Reynolds said.

Most verified sightings came from trail cameras. Since bobcats are nocturnal and secretive, they are rarely seen in daylight.

Reynolds has no reports of bobcats taking domestic dogs or cats. However, backyard poultry have fallen prey. Their favorite dinner is squirrels and small rodents.

Trappers who catch bobcats incidentally in a foothold are urged to be careful. There’s no season on the feline in Ohio, so live bobcats must be released. Dead bobcats must be turned over to the wildlife division for research purposes.

Advice and videos on how to handle live-trapped bobcats are available on the internet.

“It can be a dicey situation,” Reynolds cautioned.

Bobcats virtually disappeared from Ohio in the mid-1800s as their woodland habitat shrank.

They reappeared, beginning in the mid-1900s. The DNR began tracking their reappearance in the late 1990s.

Reynolds said it’s likely the first individuals in Ohio came from West Virginia and Pennsylvania. They found eastern Ohio’s reclaimed strip mines ideal places to den and raise young.

More recent oil and gas drilling activity in eastern and southern Ohio also benefited the species. Brush piles that surround land cleared for drilling pads and pumps are favorite denning sites.

Reynolds noted the felines are also drawn to the woodland debris left behind by harvests in Ohio’s southern and eastern forests.

Noble and Guernsey counties in East Central Ohio have become the “epicenter” of bobcat activity in the state.

“Like the reappearance of black bear, river otter, badgers, and other native wildlife, the resurgence of bobcats in Ohio is a cause for celebration,” Reynolds said.

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