Bobcats are elusive but more of them apparently are roaming in Ohio, with Belmont County being second in the state in the number of verified bobcat sightings in 2013.
The 2013 figures recently were released by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Wildlife, and last year was the first time that verified sightings increased to 200 in the Buckeye State. This, however, isn't the first time for Belmont County to claw its way up the ladder of numerical sightings, as the county sometimes has had more sightings than Noble County, which usually occupies the catbird seat in numbers.
The nocturnal creatures, named for their stubby tails, are the most common wildcat in North America, and they're in many counties in the Buckeye State but are most numerous in Southeastern Ohio.
Belmont County's verified sightings last year, totaled 21 while Noble County had 32.
The creatures, which are about twice as big as a house cat, had a total of 106 sightings in the counties near Noble. In addition to Belmont County, these included Washington County, 17; Guernsey County, 15; Monroe, 12; Morgan, five; and Muskingum, four. In other nearby counties in Eastern Ohio, Jefferson County sightings totaled five, while four are listed for Harrison County.
An ODNR press release notes the 200 bobcat sightings in 2013 mark the fourth consecutive year more than 100 verified sightings were recognized in Ohio. Of those 200, 113 were recognized from photographs or videos.
"Additional sightings were verified through road kills, incidentally trapped animals (then released) and sightings by qualified personnel," according to the ODNR.
Bobcats were confirmed in 36 counties last year and have been verified in 49 Ohio counties since 1970.
Suzie Prange, state wildlife biologist at the Wildlife District Four Ohio in Athens, said these mammals are "very shy and elusive. It's hard to get a glimpse of one, even in the woods. ... They don't tend to come around people."
Noting bobcats don't tend to be a nuisance problem, she added they sometimes are blamed for problems caused by other animals.
North America is the only continent on which bobcats are found. In addition to the United States, these four-legged creatures are in southern Canada and Mexico.
In Ohio's early history, they once roamed all over the state but were extirpated around 1850 because of the increase in Ohio residents.
The Ohio Wildlife Council earlier this year removed bobcats from the Ohio Endangered and Threatened Species list because of the increase in numbers, but they're still a protected species with no hunting or trapping season.