Bobcats live in many parts of Ohio, but good luck spotting one.
The wildcats are experts in stealth and shy away from humans, which explains why there were only 2,025 verified reports of bobcats in Ohio between 1970 and 2017, according to state data.
But on Aug. 18, a bobcat was caught on camera in the Upper Twin Conservation Area off Anthony Road and Lower Gratis Road in Farmersville.
At 8:15 p.m., a trail camera Five Rivers MetroParks was using to study white-tailed deer captured an image of a bobcat as it moved through a clearing in the park, the organization said. Bobcats hunt white-tailed deer, usually young ones.
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MetroParks says this was “a big deal,” given the species’ elusive nature and its rareness in southwest Ohio.
Ohio had 499 verified bobcat reports in 2017, with about 343 from trail camera pictures or videos, says the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Bobcats tend to stick to eastern Ohio, where there is a large amount of unoccupied, forested habitat, the state said.
In 2017, there was just one confirmed bobcat sighting each in Montgomery, Clark and Miami counties.
Guernsey County had 53 confirmed reports, the most documented that year.
The state predicts sightings to increase as the bobcat population grows, and the wildcats were removed from Ohio’s list of threatened species in April 2014.
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Bobcats are one of seven wildcat species found in North America. Adults are two to three times larger than a typical house cat.
They have bobbed tails, stocky legs, black-tipped ears with white spots and longer ruffs of fur beneath their ears, said Five Rivers MetroParks Biologist Grace Dietsch.
“Bobcats are the most common wildcat in Ohio and the only one with these defining characteristics,” she said. “The bobcat’s cousin, the lynx, looks similar, but is much more restricted to colder climates in North America and Canada.”
Bobcats are private creatures and restrict themselves to well-defined territories, Dietsch said.
They are nocturnal, meaning active at night, or crepuscular, meaning they are active around dawn or dusk, which are generally times most people are not out in nature to see them, Dietsch said.
The animals prey mostly on smaller mammals, amphibians, insects and fish and require a larger territory than most other terrestrial wildlife, Dietsch said.
Bobcats are an “indicator species” since they rely on certain amounts of habitat connectivity and diversity, she said.
“Their continued presence in this area indicates that important natural systems are in place and connected, so they all function together,” she said. “Their presence is also an indicator that Five Rivers MetroParks is indeed protecting our region’s natural heritage, which makes us all very proud.”