Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

State bobcat study analyzes population

Carbondale, Ill. – Bobcat populations in the state continue to
expand, but trapping the stealthy predator isn’t likely to be
legalized anytime soon.

The Illinois Trapper’s Association has pushed the Illinois
Legislature to implement both bobcat and river otter trapping
seasons – to no avail.

“Within the last year we’ve written letters to the governor’s
office about bobcat trapping,” Lee Stewart of the association,
said. “As far as I know we’ve never gotten a response.”

Indeed, it will take legislative action to implement such a
season, and “the feeling is that more research needs to be done (on
the bobcat),” Bob Bluett, DNR furbearer biologist, said.

In fact, a study is currently under way at the Southern Illinois
University Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory in Carbondale.
A previous study by the Wildlife Cooperative, conducted between
1995 and 2001, documented bobcat sightings in 99 of 102 Illinois
counties.

More recently, deer hunters have reported seeing bobcats more
than ever before. Bluett said the secretive nature of the animal
had once made sightings rare.

“There has been a healthy bobcat population for years, it’s just
that the bobcat rarely lets itself be seen,” Bluett said. “The fact
that more people in the field are seeing them means the population
is growing.”

DNR’s annual hunter surveys also have revealed growing numbers
of bobcats. In a 2003 deer hunter survey, hunters reported seeing
an average of 1.57 bobcats per 1,000 hours, up dramatically from
the 0.53 spotted by hunters in 1992.

When the late Alan Woolf, head of the Wildlife Cooperative,
reported findings from the original study, he noted that southern,
west-central and northwest Illinois have the best habitat and are
home to the largest numbers of bobcats. Woolf claimed that bobcats
were not only common in those regions, “they seem to be
abundant.”

That first study was based on the equivalent of more than 5,000
trap nights, which resulted in 99 bobcats being caught.

Dozens of the bobcats were outfitted with radio collars and the
cats’ locations were traced.

Researchers found that Illinois bobcats are flexible in their
home building. They create dens in barns, caves and hollow
logs.

According to the study, adult male bobcats typically roam more
than eight miles a day hunting for food.

Young males will roam more than 50 miles to establish a range of
their own. Though most adults remain in the same area their entire
lives, their individual areas can vary from 10 to 30 square
miles.

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