Bobcat Recovered by Local Officers

Bobcat Recovered by Local Officers
Journal Review
By Don Bickel

Mountain lions, black bears, wolves and bobcats — if you’ve lived in Montgomery County long enough, I’m sure you heard some of the stories.

Often the narration begins with: “The Department of Natural Resources has turned loose —whatever — to kill deer and help reduce the population.”

Now comes a press release from Conservation Officer Blaine Gillan. This will lay to rest the bobcat part of the first paragraph and maybe in the near future, there may be a similar regarding mountain lion, cougar, puma, etc. Needless to say, the DNR did not turn this bobcat loose.

Press Release from Gillan: “Earlier this week in southwestern Montgomery County, a bobcat was recovered by Conservation Officers after being struck and killed by a vehicle. The bobcat, an adult female, was along a roadway near a wooded area feeding on a deer carcass. The bobcat was taken by Conservation Officers to the DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife Headquarters in West Lafayette where it was turned over to Biologists for research purposes. Bobcats that are accidentally killed or trapped should be reported to the local Conservation Officer immediately by calling the local police dispatch or the Indiana Conservation Officers North Regional Headquarters at (765)473-9722.

There is no penalty for reporting an accidental death or capture of a bobcat, but they are illegal to take or possess. If the animal is dead, leave it in place and contact a conservation officer as soon as possible. The carcass must be surrendered to a conservation officer, and the officer will assist you.”

The bobcat (Felis rufus) is a moderate-sized member of the cat family. The name is appropriate because they sport a stubby tail only four or five inches long. Bobcats range in length from 30 to 50 inches, stand about two feet high and weigh from 15 to 30 ponds. Large tufts of fur on the cheeks are characteristic of the species. The fur is reddish-brown above and a whitish below, and black spots or streaks are throughout the coat. Bobcats live as long as 10 to 12 years in the wild. Eerie screams are often emitted by bobcats during the night.

Many scientific studies have documented that bobcats are entirely carnivorous. Their preferred prey are rabbits, but they also feed on rats, mice, moles and squirrel. Some studies have reported that small deer are occasionally taken by bobcats. Carcasses of kills too large to move, such as small deer may be cached or hidden for later meals.

Bobcats are territorial and generally solitary animals with limited social life. Territorial scent-marking with urine and scats, especially by males, has been reported. Mating generally occurs in early spring during February and March, and the young are born after a 62-day gestation period. An average litter of three kittens is born in April or May. The female may move the kittens to several different dens during the growth period. Males do not assist in raising the young. The young generally remain with the female until they reach one year of age. At that time, they learn predatory skills necessary for survival. After one year, the young disperse, and the female will enter another reproductive season. Some adults have shown that kitten survival is associated with prey abundance, with more young surviving during the years of higher rabbit populations.

Typical bobcat habitat is characteristic as remote, well forested areas of rugged topography with cliffs, bluffs or rocky outcrops. The unglaciated region of south central Indiana seems to provide the best bobcat habitat in the Hoosier state. Limestone caves found in this region, as well as rocky outcrops, hollow trees and logs could be used as denning sites. Bottomland hardwood forests along river systems bounded by large bluffs and timbered slopes are also considered good bobcat habitat.

Bobcats are a far-ranging mammal, having home ranges as large as 20 square miles. They are primarily nocturnal, hunting and moving during early morning and late evening hours. Their secretive, nocturnal behavior and preference for remote areas make interactions between humans and bobcats relatively rare. Bobcats are agile and accomplished climbers. They can dart around rock ledges in pursuit of prey or can scurry up trees to escape from dogs.

Bobcats once ranged throughout Indiana before settlement of the Hoosier state. Loss of habitat because of forest clearing and new settlements in remote areas probably caused the drastic population decline. As a result, the bobcat was classified as endangered in 1969, providing full protection for this rare species. Man is the bobcat’s worst enemy. Habitats needed by the bobcat for survival have been converted to agricultural use or developed for an expanding human population. Bobcats have been needlessly destroyed because of the misconception that they are terrible predators. They are, in fact, a beneficial predator, preying heavily on rats and mice. Information on any illegal hunting or taking of bobcats should be reported to the Turn In a Poacher phone line at 1-800-TIP-IDNR. Callers will remain anonymous and cash rewards are available for information leading to the successful prosecution of a fish and wildlife law violator.

From this writer: Approximately, in early September, a hunter's trail camera recorded the image of an adult bobcat. This was also in the general vicinity of southwestern Montgomery County. Since bobcats are usually loners, except during the mating season, this recently killed animal may have been the one on the trail camera.

Trail cameras are now commonly used by both hunters and wildlife watchers. This also means there are many of these “eyes in the woods” recording images digitally when an animal, bird or person walks within range. The cameras are motion-sensitive and are capable of taking pictures in daylight or dark. As the popularity of the trail camera increases, the makes and models also increase. Presently there are a few on the market selling for $50 or less. The price goes up to several hundred dollars. Bells and whistles (neither on a trail camera) add to the higher priced models.

This evening, I retrieved my trail camera from the food plot where it had been doing sentry duty. Yes, deer are using the plot both in daylight and at night. Now, if the weather cools just a bit…