Monday, October 29, 2012 11:00 AM
A Jefferson County family was surprised to find a bobcat not far from the front doorstep of their home between Madison and Dupont last week.
Scientific name: Lynx rufus
Height: 18-24 inches tall
Weight: 15-30 pounds (males larger)
Coat coloration: tannish with dark spots; lighter coloring on belly
Distinguished by: short (4-7 inch) tail with black tip on top side; tufts of hair on top of ears and on cheeks
Habitats: found throughout North American forests, mountains and brushlands
Feeding habits: carnivorous; feeds on small mammals and birds; occasionally reptiles
Predators: Kittens are hunted by foxes, coyotes and large owls; people are the only threat to adults
Reproduction: mate February to March; average litter of two to three kittens; young stays with mother 7-12 months
Life span: 10-15 years in wild
-Information from www.nature.org.
Jamie Messer, who lives about three miles south of Dupont, said his daughter came across the animal, which she found dead after it apparently was hit by a car on State Road 7.
The area is somewhat rural, but finding the animal on the busy highway stunned Messer.
"Since that, we've heard from a lot of people around the area that have heard or seen a cat or two over the years," he said, putting an emphasize on "years."
Messer said his daughter took a picture of the animal and later moved it to the side of the road.
The family later reported their find to the Department of Natural Resources, but on arriving at the scene, the officers said the animal was gone.
Bobcats, once considered an endangered species in Indiana, have recently made a comeback, though the animal is still state-protected, making it illegal to hunt.
The animal ranges in length from 30 to 50 inches, stands about 2 feet high and weighs 15 to 30 pounds, according to the DNR website.
Though it's hard to pinpoint a population number, Shawn Rossler, furbearer biologists with the DNR, said Indiana is seeing a rise in bobcat reports across the state.
They project a population increase based on sightings and, oddly, mortality reports. In the early 2000s, Rossler said the DNR received about 10 to 12 reports of dead bobcats every year. Now, that number is closer to 60 or 70.
"The trend is upward," he said.
When a bobcat is found dead or alive, DNR conservative officers asked to be notified. If the animal is deceased, biologists often use the opportunity to conduct an autopsy to further study things like its sex, size, weight and dietary tendencies.
"For females, you're able to look at the reproductive track, and look at how many offspring she had that year," Rossler said.
Bobcats live about 10 to 12 years, are primarily nocturnal and are considered to be solitary animals. During the breeding season - in late winter early spring - males tend to wander greater distances, while females maintain their more restricted homerange.
Rossler said bobcats are such a "shy and secretive" animal that is an unlikely they will show aggression toward humans unless conflicted with an illness, such as rabies.
In 1969, the bobcat was classified as endangered in Indiana, but because of a population increase in 2005, the animal was removed from the list, according to the DNR. Bobcats are sometimes known as Felis rufus as they are part of the cat family Felidae. They are also called bay lynx and red lynx.
Bobcats emit an eerie scream that can be heard for miles. These calls are a way for them to communicate with one another during the breeding season.
A bobcat's personal territory can span out up to 30 square miles for males and five square miles for females. These territories are clearly marked by the bobcat's urine and/or feces.
Bobcats have excellent vision, hearing and a well-developed sense of smell.
Unlike the domesticated housecat, bobcats enjoy the water and are very good swimmers.
As incredibly skilled climbers, bobcat can easily maneuver around rocky terrain and climb up tall trees when pursuing their prey.
Bobcats are very quiet hunters who pounce on their prey and can kill it with one bite. These large cats are known to leap up to ten feet in the air
Bobcat tracks are easy to distinguish - roundish paw, four toes and no claw-markings.
While Lynx rufus is flourishing through North America, the Mexican bobcat is still considered a federally endangered specie.
- Facts from www.nature.org.