Bobcats are in the woods, but are so elusive they often go unnoticed.
“They are on the comeback,” Geauga Park District Chief Naturalist John Kolar said of the animal that is mostly active dusk to dawn.
The growing bobcat population in Ohio was discussed during a Jan. 22 presentation by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife at Geauga Park District’s West Woods Nature Center in Russell. Mr. Kolar and Jamey Emmert, wildlife communications specialist with the Division of Wildlife, District 3, coordinated the event. About 100 people attended.
While West Geauga High School science teacher Mike Sustin has monitored areas with cameras for black bear, he has so far not had a bobcat sighting. The same is true in the parks, Mr. Kolar said.
Though local authorities believe the bobcats are active in Geauga, the state is still processing data from 2015 and 2016. Verified reports have come from Lake, Ashtabula, Trumbull and Portage counties.
Still, habitat preferred by bobcats is everywhere in Geauga County, so they are likely to be here, Mr. Kolar said.
Bobcats can weigh between 15 and 30 pounds and are “very leggy.” They look larger now because of their dense winter fur coats. They tend to have brownish to reddish fur with black splotches on the inside of their legs. Their tails are a few inches long and the white triangles on their brown ears are noticeable, Ms. Emmert said.
Bobcats are strictly meat eaters, stalking mice and voles as well as squirrels and rabbits, Mr. Kolar noted. “They are the comeback critters in Ohio and their numbers are increasing.”
They were removed from Ohio’s endangered species list in 2014, Ms. Emmert said, but are still protected by law. Bobcats cannot be kept as a pet or hunted in this state. “The population is swelling in most of Northeast Ohio,” she added.
“If someone sees one, take a picture,” Mr. Kolar advised, to confirm their presence.
Most of them are in southern Ohio and are traveling north. There is a population in Noble County in the southeastern part of the state, northeast of Athens.
“It’s a hotbed of activity” there, Ms. Emmert said. Experts say the animals’ offsprings are moving through Ohio and to neighboring states.
Michigan, Pennsylvania and Kentucky allow seasonal hunting and trapping of bobcats to manage the populations. Indiana has a similar population to Ohio’s.
“We get all kinds of reports in Ohio,” she said of sightings, with most unverified. Experts need photos of bobcats and their scat to help verify their presence.
Bobcats are more difficult to track than bears because the cats “are good at staying under the radar,” she said. They generally seek refuge in forests, but also wander in grasslands and wetlands. One habitat bobcats do not usually like is farmland. They create dens in downed trees, rocky outcroppings and use holes made by coyotes and ground hogs.
To report a bobcat sighting contact the Division of Wildlife, District 3 by calling 330-644-2293 or 1-800-WILDLIFE.