INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
Sightings of one of Indiana’s most secretive inhabitants - the bobcat - are
on the rise in the state’s central counties as the largely nocturnal animals
venture south from a northeastern Indiana stronghold into areas with
favorable habitat, state wildlife experts say.
Officer John Gano said he’s received a growing number of reports this fall
of sightings of the animals in northern Hamilton County, the county just
north of Indianapolis. But he said central Indiana has seen in uptick for
years of both bobcat sightings and “road-kill” cases.
shouldn’t be alarmed by the wildcats’ growing presence, Gano said, because
they avoid human contact and are not a threat to either pets or livestock.
Bobcats’ favored prey includes rabbits, squirrels and field mice, he said.
Gano said the
bobcats appearing in Indiana’s central counties are believed to be moving
south from populations around north-central Indiana’s Mississinewa
Reservoir, and possibly areas farther to the northeast. Most bobcats found
dead along the area’s rural roads following collisions with cars and trucks
have been young males who likely set out on their own, he said.
“What happens is
they get pushed out by the older, more dominant cats and they have to
establish a territory of their own - and that’s how they increase their
range,” Gano said.
were heavily trapped and hunted in the early 1900s, decimating their numbers
until they were classified in 1969 as state endangered. Bobcats were removed
from Indiana’s endangered species list in 2005, but they remain a protected
species in the state.
The native wildcats
stand about 2 feet tall, typically weigh 15 to 25 pounds and sport a
striking appearance - stubby “bobbed” tails 4 to 5 inches long and pale
reddish-brown fur with black spots and streaks and whitish bellies. Their
prominent ears are marked by short blackish tufts.
Scott Johnson, a
nongame biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said
bobcats’ numbers have been growing since the 1990s, spurred by Indiana’s
growing amount of woodlands and brushy, grassy tracts that offer them both
cover and food.
bobcat habitat has long been southern Indiana’s terrain of rolling hills,
dense woods and rocky outcroppings. But a significant population also exists
in northeastern Indiana’s landscape of lakes, swamps and wooded tracts, he
Between about 1970
and 2000, Indiana had only about 30 confirmed bobcat sightings. But in 2011
alone there were about 75 confirmed bobcat sightings - all of which involved
bobcats either found dead along roadways or killed in traps intended for
other animals, he said.
“road-kill” and trapped bobcats are the DNR’s best way to assess their
populations because the cats are fast-footed and elusive.
He said anyone
who’s ever seen a bobcat in the wild comes away impressed by their
beautiful animals. They’re just magnificent looking in the wild and anyone
who’s fortunate enough to see one really enjoys that brief encounter,”