Biologists Verify Nearly 100 Bobcat Sightings
in 2009 in Ohio
|Increased evidence of bobcats living in Ohio continues in 2009.
Increased evidence of bobcats living in Ohio’s southeastern counties continues with the confirmation of 92 sightings by state wildlife officials during 2009, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The reports show an increase from the 65 verified sightings in 2008.
The bobcat was found throughout Ohio during early settlement, but as land was converted for crops and communities the bobcat’s population declined. By 1850, the animal could no longer be found living in the state. A handful of unverified sightings in the 1960s marked the bobcat’s unofficial return to Ohio. Since 1970, state wildlife biologists have verified 359 bobcat sightings in 31 counties.
Verification of the elusive bobcat includes photographs of the animal and its tracks; encounters through incidental trapping, from which animals are later released; recovery of road kill and sightings by Division of Wildlife personnel. The majority of the 2009 verified reports occurred in Noble County and the immediate surrounding counties.
In an effort to further clarify estimated populations, ongoing Division of Wildlife research is currently utilizing scent stations and remote cameras for observation in several locations throughout southeast Ohio.
These efforts have been supported by the Wildlife Diversity and Endangered Species fund, which receives donations from Ohioans through the state income tax check-off program and by the purchase of cardinal license plates. Individuals wanting to donate can also make an online contribution or purchase an Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp.
The bobcat is listed as an endangered species in Ohio and protected by state law.
Bobcats were found throughout Ohio in early settlement times. They were concentrated primarily in the large, lowland areas of the north and unglaciated Allegheny Plateau region of the southeastern portion of the state. As swamps and lowlands were drained and forests cleared to make way for settlements and cropland, the bobcat population declined. By 1850, they were considered extirpated from the state. From 1850 through the 1960s, there were occasional reports of bobcats, mainly in eastern Ohio. From 1970 through 2009, there have been 359 verified (e.g., positive identification via roadkill, incidental trappings, etc.) reports of bobcats in Ohio. The bobcat is officially classified as an Ohio endangered species and provided full protection under the law. In 1997, a project was initiated by the Division of Wildlife to systematically monitor the status of bobcats in Ohio.
Unverified reports – A total of 1,100 unverified bobcat sightings was received from 1970-2009; 266 of the sightings were received in 2009, compared to 220 unverified reports in 2008. Unverified sightings were reported from 60 counties during 2009 and from 81 counties since 1970 (Fig. 1). Unverified reports in 2009 were obtained primarily through Endangered/Uncommon Species Observation Cards (n = 109; 41%) and calls to the Call Center (n = 108; 41%).
Verified reports – Verified reports represent positive identification of a bobcat, usually as a result of the animal being killed on the road, photographed, or incidentally trapped. Verified reports provide the best information regarding the distribution and abundance of bobcats in Ohio. Further, they provide an important index of change in annual relative abundance. In situations where the bobcat carcass is available, the age, weight, reproductive status of females, and various body measurements are obtained. As such, these carcasses provide valuable information concerning the health and reproductive status of Ohio’s bobcat population.
Since 1970, there have been 359 verified reports of bobcats in Ohio, of which the great majority have occurred since 2000 (n = 331; 92%). There were 92 verified bobcat reports in 2009 compared to 65 in 2008. These 92 reports included 48 photographs, 30 roadkills, 7 sightings by Ohio Department of Natural Resources staff or other qualified personnel, 4 incidentally trapped bobcats, 2 bobcats that died of unknown causes, and 1 observation of tracks. Verified bobcat reports were documented in 16 counties during 2009 and from 31 counties since 1970 (Fig. 2). Bobcat sightings during 2009 continue to be highly aggregated. Of the 92 verified reports, 25 (27%) were from Noble County, and 70 (76%) were reported within a 1-county radius of Noble County.
Overall, verified sightings have increased steadily over the past decade (Fig. 3). Bobcat mortality, particularly vehicle-related, has historically been the primary source of verified sightings. However, in 2008 photographs taken by trail cameras became the primary source (28 of 65 observations; 43%), and they were again the primary source during 2009 (48 of 92 observations; 52%). Prior to 2006, trail cameras photos were a negligible source of sightings. Since that time, however, the number of sightings via trail camera photos has increased dramatically. Other sources of verified sightings, although generally increasing over time, have not shown the same rapid increase (Fig. 4). It is likely that the growing popularity of trail cameras, as well as the decline in their cost, is largely responsible for the recent increase in the receipt of trail camera photos of bobcats. As such, this source of data is biased and should be interpreted with caution.
All bobcat carcasses received were necropsied. Eighteen of 34 carcasses were males (14 adults and 4 juveniles) and 16 were females (6 adults and 10 juveniles). All adult females showed evidence of reproduction in the past or at time of death.