It is a rare and special opportunity to see a bobcat in Ohio, just ask the neighbors
at the north end of Germantown MetroPark. Although officially classified as an Ohio
endangered species, bobcats have been both spotted and heard by this group of residents
since January, 2005.
In order to validate the reports, park officials needed physical proof that the
animal had taken up residence. Here lies the challenge. You see, the bobcat is a
secretive and elusive little creature, and the Germantown MetroPark landscape offers
the dense cover that bobcats love to hide in.
Bobcats were found throughout the Ohio country in early settlement times. As swamps
and lowlands were drained and forests cleared to make way for settlements and cropland,
the bobcat population declined. By 1850, they were considered extirpated in the
state. In 1976, the bobcat was officially classified as an Ohio endangered species
and has since been provided full protection under the law. In 1997, a project was
initiated by the Ohio Department of Natural Resource Division of Wildlife to monitor
the status of bobcats in Ohio. The good news is, the bobcat population in Ohio is
on the rise: there were 37 verified bobcat reports in 2006, compared to 20 in 2005.
After receiving local
sighting reports, MetroParks staff set up surveys in Germantown
MetroPark. They set up two methods: hair snares and remote cameras, to try to prove
bobcats were in the park. The hair snares were laced with catnip oil to attract bobcats and
encourage them to rub against them, leaving enough hair behind to perform DNA screening
for verification. Remote cameras were placed in several locations near the reported
sightings in hopes of capturing images of the elusive creature.
Several hairs with the right color patterns were taken from the snares, but did
not offer enough DNA to verify they were from a bobcat. The remote cameras captured
an abundance of pictures – but they were of deer, turkeys, coyotes, and people.
Still, park staff continued their pursuit for evidence.
Finally, on an afternoon walk in the park in late October, a naturalist from the Cleveland
Museum of Natural History, in town doing an unrelated survey for MetroParks, happened
upon bobcat tracks on a muddy spot in the trail north of the Nature Center.
He grabbed his camera and captured the evidence folks from Germantown had been waiting
over two years to capture. The tracks were then verified by bobcat and animal tracking
Naturalists are not surprised that the bobcat picked Germantown MetroPark as his
home; it has all the makings of a healthy natural habitat for the animal. The park
offers remote, well-forested areas of rugged topography, a creek for the bobcat
to drink from, and plenty of spots on which to sun himself after a hard night’s
work of hunting rabbits, moles and other small mammals.
“There’s no need for visitors to fear the bobcat,” says Michael Enright, Five Rivers
MetroParks Conservation Biologist, “Their secretive, nocturnal behavior and preference
for remote areas make interactions between humans and bobcats rare. So rare that
it took us more than two years just to prove the little guy was living among us.”
Park officials will continue to manage Germantown MetroPark for its healthy habitat
through preservation and continued land acquisition, and are hopeful that more bobcats
will find it a comfortable home.