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Bobcat Sightings On The Rise
Updated November 21, 2014 7:40 AM | Filed under: Natural Resources
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John Gano, a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer, holds a dead young male bobcat that had recently been hit by a car outside of Sharpsville, in Tipton County.

(UNDATED) - Indiana wildlife officials say bobcat sightings are increasing and the state could someday allow a limited fur-trapping season for the wildcats.

According to the DNR, bobcats once ranged throughout Indiana, but loss of habitat and human encroachment into their territory resulted in the species being nearly eradicated from the state.

Bobcats were classified as endangered in 1969, but the species was removed from the endangered list in 2005 as the species recovered.

Bobcats' favorite prey are rabbits, but they also feed on rats, mice, moles, squirrels, and sometimes small deer, according to the DNR.

Bobcats remain illegal to hunt or trap in Indiana. The agency says it's possible there may be a limited trapping season for bobcats in the future, especially in their strongholds in southern and northeastern Indiana.

According to the DNR website, 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 2 feet high and weigh from 15 to 30 pounds. 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.

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.

The Division of Fish & Wildlife's Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program began a study in December 1998 to determine the abundance and distribution of bobcats in the state. The project is focused on southcentral Indiana. Bobcats are trapped, radiocollared and then tracked to determine habitat use, reproduction and abundance. Data gathered from the study will be used to create management guidelines.

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