The bobcat in Illinois

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115359310327.jpg’, ”, ‘The Bobcat – Felis rufus (or Lynx rufus) is about twice the size of a domestic cat. Male bobcats average about 25 pounds, and females about 15 pounds—although a big male can reach 40 pounds and a maximum length of about 3 feet. This animal is built for stalking, with sharp eyesight and even sharper hearing. The bobcat climbs just as well as any domestic cat, and hunts in much the same way: it approaches its prey in utter silence, and then pounces, using its sharp claws to hold the animal while closing its teeth around the unfortunate victim’s neck.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115361622188.jpg’, ”, ‘The quick and the dead – Bobcats are nocturnal hunters, most active just after sunset and before sunrise. They prey on squirrels, cottontails, mice, birds and, occasionally, insects. They will even take young, sick or injured deer if the opportunity arises. Like many other carnivores, bobcats often gorge on large meals and then spend the next few days without eating at all. Or, they may drag large prey to a safe spot to consume over several days.’);

Our state’s only wild feline has been quietly making a comeback.

Bobcats were once common in Illinois, but hunting by European settlers and the gradual deforestation of the state nearly wiped them out. Although their numbers had already been greatly reduced by the early 1900s, bobcats weren’t listed as threatened in Illinois until 1977.

Since then, thanks to improved forest management and other conservation efforts, the bobcat population has been able to make a return. By 1999, bobcats were removed from the threatened list following studies showing that “…71 of Illinois’ 102 counties had at least three reports of bobcat sightings, and 92 counties had at least one report…” according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

Despite their successful comeback, bobcats are still somewhat rare throughout our state. And thanks to their stealth and nocturnal habits, your chances of spotting one are very small.

These animals prefer large stretches of woodland, with a range of hills and bluffs, open fields, and exposed cuts such as might be found along rivers. In our state, populations of bobcats have been identified along parts of the major rivers. And according to a Southern Illinois University study, more than 2,220 bobcats may have already re-established themselves in hilly regions in the southern part of the state.

Bobcats breed in the early spring, and raise fairly small litters of two or three kittens. Only the mother cares for the young. Kittens stay with her as long as one year, until they are able to hunt and survive on their own.

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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