Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bobcats in Eastern Ohio

Good morning.  I want to focus today on a species that is becoming more prevalent throughout the watershed but is still listed as state endangered.  You're probably assuming I am venturing into a piece about the eastern hellbender - but not this time.  I am referring to the bobcat (Felis rufus) which is also state endangered.  Traditionally bobcats occupied the forested hills of the Western Allegheny Plateau in the eastern part of Ohio but were driven to near extinction in the late 1800's by trappers and farmers who removed their habitat.  Throughout the 1900's the bobcat population quietly rebounded as habitat in eastern Ohio converted from farmland back to forest.  According to ODNR, bobcat population densities in Ohio have been highest over the last few decades in Noble County which is located immediately west of the headwaters of Captina Creek.  Over the last decade bobcat sightings in Belmont and Monroe Counties have steadily increased with isolated roadkill reports in the watershed and sightings by hunters using trail cameras.  The bobcat is a shy, stealthy animal that prefers forested habitat near secondary growth fields where birds and small mammals thrive.  It is not likely to be encountered in broad daylight which is why this picture is unique.  Thanks to Laura Hughes for the photo!  Any viewers with bobcat photos from eastern Ohio are encouraged to send them to me in either digital or hard copy.

A bobcat was observed feeding on a deer carcass next to a rural road
in Lee Township, Monroe County.  This is about twenty miles south
of the Captina watershed.  Note the short, stubby tail and tufts of fur
on the sides of the face.  The bobcat is perfectly camouflaged for its
habitat - nearly cryptic with the leaf litter on the forest floor which may
make spotting them in daylight difficult. 

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