by Mitchell Kirk
Cass County’s wooded areas and river drainages may be attracting more bobcats to the area, according to biologists working for the state.
Two bobcat sightings have been reported in Cass County since December, according to Tom Hewitt, a biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. He said they are the first sightings in the area since the early 1990s.
Hewitt said he was contacted by Brenda Louthain, a Cass County conservation officer, about three weeks ago regarding a bobcat that had been killed by a car a few miles west of Logansport on I-24.
Hewitt was also contacted in December by a local trapper who had inadvertently snared and killed a bobcat in a trap he uses to hunt raccoons.
“That’s the first bobcat I’ve heard of in Cass County for several years,” Hewitt said.
Louthain said she had heard of a man living near Lake Cicott about 20 years ago that had obtained a permit to own bobcats and had two of them as pets. She recalled rumors that the bobcats had escaped and said they could have bred, leading to the animals’ growing, though small, presence in the county.
Hewitt said bobcats are likely attracted to the woodlands and the rivers in the area.
“They’re secretive, nighttime critters,” he said. “In Cass County there are a lot of wooded spots and river corridors providing more seclusion.”
The small predators are two to four feet long, standing about two feet high and weigh 15 to 30 pounds, Hewitt said, adding the large tufts of fur on their cheeks are a distinct characteristic.
The possibility of a person running into a bobcat is rare, according to Hewitt, as they are known to avoid people. Should it happen however, he said the best thing to do is to yell in order to scare it away.
“You just have to holler at them to scare them off,” Hewitt said. “That’s probably not going to be needed because in most cases they’re going to be running one way as you run the other way. They’re just as frightened of you as you are of them. The only time a wild animal is going to be defensive is when it has young ones. If you corner them and threaten them, then naturally they’re going to defend themselves.”
Scott Johnson, a biologist with the division of fish and wildlife with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, said bobcats are more prevalent in the southern part of the state. From 1998 to 2006, Johnson worked on a project at the Naval Support Activity Crane, a U.S. military installation outside of Crane. He said he and other biologists trapped and placed tracking collars on about 40 bobcats.
“We got quite a bit of information from it,” Johnson said. “One of the things I think we got out of it was bobcats are quite a bit more abundant than maybe they originally thought. They were able to take them off the state endangered list by about the time that project finished up.”
While bobcats are no longer on the state endangered list, they are still protected, prohibiting them from being hunted. If they are inadvertently killed in a trap, as was the case Hewitt addressed in December, the trapper is required to contact the Department of Natural Resources.
Johnson said the motivation behind the tracking study was an increase in reports of bobcats being hit by vehicles.
“We tried to capture some, put radios on them and let the animals dictate the size of the study area,” he said, adding many of the bobcats had predictable and established home ranges in the area but some traveled as far as Cincinnati and East Lansing, Michigan.
Johnson said he thinks the reason bobcats stick to the southern part of the state is because it has more wooded and brushy areas that provide good cover for rabbits, a source of food for bobcats. Like Hewitt, he said major river drainages like the Wabash River offer a satisfactory environment for those that settle up north.
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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