- Bobcats once disappeared from Ohio, but now their population has built back.
- A top predator in Ohio, the bobcat lives in wooded areas.
- Bobcats are protected by law and cannot be killed or trapped.
Ohio, one of the twelve states in the Midwest, has four major different habitats: forests, prairies, wetlands, and the Great Lakes. This fact demonstrates how diverse the state’s landscapes are, and how equipped it is to support various animal species. Native white-tailed deer, cockroaches, mourning doves, American bullfrogs, snapping turtles, black bears, coyotes, and bobcats are a few of these species.
The bobcat is a fascinating species of wild cat. This regal cat has captivated people for years thanks to its enticing appearance and quiet disposition. Bobcats weigh between 15 and 40 pounds and have an average lifespan of 7 years. They are carnivores, but will not attack humans unless provoked, and then they can be fierce fighters, like any cat.
But what is the status of these felines in the state? Are they endangered, or are they allowed to be hunted and trapped? This article addresses everything you need to know about bobcats in Ohio.
Are There Bobcats in Ohio?
To quickly answer this, yes, bobcats are present in Ohio. However, they haven’t always been. Rarely are we able to celebrate the return of a once-native species to areas where they formerly roamed, but that is exactly what is happening with Ohio’s bobcats. The majority of the state used to be home to these secretive creatures, but by 1850 they had all but disappeared. Now, they are returning.
It felt like there hadn’t been any bobcats to count in Ohio for nearly a century, along with other wildlife species like wild turkeys. But researchers established that the state currently has resident populations. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Division of Wildlife, reports that 499 bobcat sightings were confirmed in the most current report from 2020. Residents of Washington County reported the highest number in the state, at 26, but other counties nearby also recorded large numbers.
Studies dating back to the 1900s claim that the bobcat was previously hunted to extinction, but sightings have increased dramatically during the past 20 years. The ODNR has never before recorded a spike like that in the last ten years.
Bobcats are one of Ohio’s top predators, sharing the position with other animals like coyotes and birds of prey like red-tailed hawks and bald eagles. In their habitats, predatory animals are crucial in controlling the numbers of other creatures.
Where Do Bobcats in Ohio Live?
The typical bobcat’s territory ranges between 6 and 12 miles of primarily wooded land next to open areas. A bobcat is less likely to thrive in a location like the Munroe Falls Metro Park, bordered by homes and businesses. Although bobcats are already widespread in areas of southeast and southern Ohio, there are still vast areas of appropriate woodland habitats that are uninhabited, particularly in northeast Ohio. As the population grows and spreads out, the coming years should see an increase in bobcat reports.
In “modern” times, the first bobcat encounter was reported in 1946. From the time of extinction until the 1960s, there were sporadic sightings of bobcats, but these weren’t frequent enough to suggest that they settled down, until the early 2000s.
Southern Ohio bobcats still have genetic ties to those in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Additionally, the population in the southeast is expanding more quickly and seems self-sustaining. In fact, the bobcat is known to live in every state of the lower 48 except Delaware. Anywhere there are forests, swamps or coastal areas, or desert and scrubland, this adaptable cat can make a home.
History of Bobcats in Ohio
The resurgence of bobcats in Ohio is a success story the state prides itself on. According to the ODNR, bobcats are endemic to Ohio. They were abundant throughout the state before it was settled. However, the bobcat population decreased throughout the 1800s when woods were cut down and marshes and wetlands were drained to make space for settlements and farmland. By 1850, the bobcat had been completely eradicated from Ohio due to habitat loss and fur hunting. There were only sporadic records of bobcats from 1850 until the 1960s, mostly in eastern Ohio.
Over a century later, habitats suitable for bobcats reappeared in Ohio as previously farmed areas changed back into the forest, and abandoned mines were rehabilitated. This resulted in the bobcat’s reintroduction. In Ohio, the species saw a resurgence in the middle of the 20th century, and current sighting maps from the ODNR show that the wild cats are now being sighted more frequently and in record numbers throughout the state.
Verified sightings have generally skyrocketed in the past ten years. The bobcat was taken off Ohio’s list of endangered and vulnerable species in July 2014.
What Brought Bobcats Back To Ohio?
According to biologist Ryan Donnelly, bobcats were brought back to Ohio through a reintroduction program in the 1990s, and they now seem to be thriving. According to an ODNR report, it is challenging to determine the population from sighting reports. Since many of them are captured using trail cameras, which have recently become more affordable and widespread, the rise in sightings may be the consequence of many more people paying attention to the trails.
In Ohio, there were almost 500 confirmed sightings as of 2017, according to data. Verified sightings are descriptions of incidents in which a bobcat is positively identified, and they may involve roadkill or accidentally captured animals. The southeast part of the state has experienced the majority of these sightings. Being elusive and solitary by nature, bobcats make every sighting special.
Can Bobcats Be Hunted in Ohio?
Bobcats are still safeguarded in Ohio and cannot be killed or trapped, but in 2014 the Wildlife Council took them off the list of endangered or threatened species. Since the early 2000s, the Division of Wildlife has worked with or funded scientists at Ohio University on several bobcat research initiatives.
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- LakeMetroParks, Available here: https://www.lakemetroparks.com/along-the-trail/march-2020/the-return-of-ohio-s-bobcats
- The Scioto Post, Available here: https://www.sciotopost.com/bobcat-is-back-in-southern-ohio-increased-sightings-in-the-area/
- Farm and Dairy, Available here: https://www.farmanddairy.com/top-stories/reclusive-bobcats-are-an-ohio-success-story/638705.html