A bobcat climbs a tree in this photo provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The animal was recently spotted in Union County as they make their return to Ohio. (Photo submitted)
The elusive bobcat is one of North America’s six wildcat breeds and is a species that was plentiful in the state of Ohio until the 1850s.
By that time, Ohio listed them as extirpated until the 1960s when occasional sightings were being reported to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife in eastern portions of the state.
Union County has joined the list of confirmed sightings.
A bobcat was recently reported as being seen on U.S. 33 to the east of state Route 42.
It is the second sighting of a bobcat in the area in the last 50 years, according to Brian Motsinger, an Ohio State Wildlife officer assigned to Union County.
“The animal had been struck by a vehicle and a citizen called it in to the Union County Sheriff’s Office,” said Motsigner. “They then called us.”
Ohio started to keep track of bobcat sightings in 1970 and listed the animal as endangered in 1974.
In the early 2000s, the animal’s numbers started to rebound significantly, leading to the bobcat being reclassified as ‘common’ in 2014.
In 2017 alone, there were 499 verified sightings of bobcats in the state, bringing the number of total reports since 1970 to more than 2,000.
Motsinger said there has been at least one confirmed sighting of a bobcat in all 88 counties.
The majority of the sightings remain in the southeast portion of the state with the highest being 53 verified sightings in Guernsey County.
The bobcat’s exact numbers are hard to pin down for the state due to their nocturnal activity and wide range.
Adult males average 21 pounds and have a home range anywhere between 16-and-40 square miles.
Females weigh in at approximately 15 pounds and have home ranges about half that of males, making the animal hard to track.
To do so, the state has relied on the public to help spot the creature by calling in the carcass of the animal or reporting a sighting on the Division of Wildlife’s animal reporting webpage, https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/speciessighting/.
“Bobcat mortality has historically been the primary source of verified sightings,” according to a release from the Division of Wildlife.
Even with the number of bobcat sightings on the rise, Motsinger said it is still very unlikely their paths will cross with people.
“They are not likely to get near domestic animals or residential neighborhoods,” he said.
However, there have been talks of a bobcat trapping season coming to Ohio, according to Motsinger.
The proposal was first brought to the table in October 2017 for a November-January trapping season starting in 2018.
The idea, however, was scrapped in an effort to obtain more definitive numbers of the state’s bobcat population.
“There is little information about the status of the population, the numerical trends or the rate of the population expansion,” according to a report from Wildlife Biology Program Administrator Mike Reynolds.
In an effort to collect better population data, the state has started capturing photo evidence using trail cams at 100 locations across Ohio.
The state is also collecting DNA samples to help determine “parentage and population structure.”
The research is still ongoing.