Bobcats stage comeback: 4 sightings in county last year

SALEM — Bobcats are making a comeback after being on the threatened species list, according to the Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources.

In 2017 there were four verified bobcat sightings in Columbiana County, the northern-most point adjacent to the Pennsylvania state line where they have moved.

The ODNR said bobcats are being seen more often, “especially in Ohio’s southeastern counties.”

Jamey Emmert, a spokeserson with the Department of Wildlife, Division 3, office in Akron, said bobcats, not to be confused with mountain lions, were delisted from the threatened species list in 2014 and “the population is doing well.”

There were 10 sightings in Jefferson County in 2017, five in Carroll County, 18 in Harrison County, 53 in Guernsey County, 27 in Coshocton County and 22 in Muskingum County.

There was one sighting in Stark County and seven in Tuscarawas County.

Wildlife officials don’t have a township breakdown showing more precisely where the bobcats were sighted, but Laurie Graber, a wildlife technician with ODNR, said, “We know our reports are increasing. We really pushed for people to report them. We’re trying to get Ohioans to reach out to us. I’m sure there are more as time goes on.”

She said there were 499 verified bobcat reports in 2017 which included 343 trail camera photos or videos, 82 road-killed, 12 incidentally trapped and 28 by ODNR staff.

Bobcat sightings were documented in 46 counties 2017 and in 71 since 1970.

Ohio has 88 counties and many hunters deploy trail cameras and verified sightings have increased dramatically with them.

Graber added, “There is no legal means to hunt or trap them,” but ODNR just proposed a trapping season, a first, for 2018.

The bobcats are moving north from southern Ohio, up a number of corridors including along the Ohio River.

Emmert said bobcats are similar to coyotes and foxes in that they are “really intelligent, really inquisitive.”

Bobcats are quite a bit smaller than mountain lions, she said, explaining, “I think a lot of times people tend to overlook how big a mountain lion is.

“Bobcats are leggy but their color tends to be more reddish in summer and apart from that they have ‘barring’ or spots that standout.”

They are active mostly from dawn until dusk and stay in wooded areas.

“They’re nocturnal and from all we know, Ohio bobcats tend to be more wary of people … don’t tolerate people. In northeast Ohio, we’re fortunate that we have an abundance of habitat where they feel protected.”

Graber said, “They’re pretty solitary … stick to themselves and as soon as they see people they run.”

They are up to three times as large as an average house cat and primarily hunt and eat birds, like wild turkeys, and small mammals like mice, squirrels, rabbits, but can hunt deer as well. Graber said a bobcat can take down an adult deer but it could be a weaker, possibly injured.

“They can be a threat to chickens,” she said, but there’s only been one situation in Tuscarawas County with a farmer. She said the farmer put a fence up and the bobcat couldn’t get at the free-ranging chickens.

As far as being a danger to people, Emmert said, “Not that I know of … when they see humans on their territory they move on … I don’t see that as a problem.”

If you see one, she said, “Clap, make a noise.”

Emmert says the resurgence is good news for Ohio’s ecosystem, because of the state’s lack of apex predators and having them as part of a natural and healthy ecosystem is good. Bobcats in Ohio prefer rural, wooded areas, especially early successional habitats in the vicinity of reclaimed strip mined areas, the ODNR website said.

She encouraged people to contact the ODNR at 1-800-WILDLIFE if they see a bobcat and for more information visit ohiodnr.gov.

lshields@salemnews.net

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