Scott Underwood Column: Online Site Shows Bobcats Recovering in State | columns

Some of the images are grainy black and white. Some depict shadowy, ghostly creatures, some of which are indistinguishable from the surrounding forest floor.

But many of the photos and videos are sharp, colorful and undeniable. They show bobcats roaming the Indiana woods.

You can find these images on the Bobcat Sightings in Indiana 2021-2022 Facebook page. It’s a private site, which means you have to become a member to read the content.

I’m addicted to the Bobcat sighting site. One day last week I realized I had spent a whole hour clicking around on this.

I am fascinated by the fact that true wild cats breathe, breed and haunt the wild lands of the Hoosier State. Even the photos of dead bobcats on the streets of Indiana, while tragic, lend credence to the idea that such creatures abound.

Here’s what the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website has to say about bobcats:

“Bobcats, Indiana’s only resident native feral cat, are widespread in southern and parts of central Indiana and increasing in northern Indiana. They are rarely seen because they can blend in with their surroundings and move silently.”

The DNR reports that bobcats have been reported in nearly all of Indiana’s 92 counties. Recent images on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page show bobcats in Brown, Cass, Hamilton, Howard, Huntington, Morgan, Porter and numerous other counties.

I haven’t seen any pictures of bobcats in Madison County. But I’m sure they are out there and I suspect some of you can relate local Bobcat sightings and maybe even provide photos. (If yes, please email me!)

As in other parts of the state, these images are most likely taken by hunters of deer, turkey, and other game. Many of the images on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page are also from people who set up wildlife cameras.

Some of these people are hunters; others, like me, are simply interested in the diversity of animal species in our midst.

According to the Indiana Woodland Steward, a group dedicated to promoting the “wise use of Indiana’s forest resources,” unregulated hunting, and reducing the habitat of landed bobcats on the state’s endangered species list in 1969.

Because its population recovered as its habitat increased, the bobcat was delisted in 2005, but remains a protected species in Indiana. Hunting and trapping are prohibited.

My current favorite post on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page is a video taken by a man at a tree line at the edge of a cornfield in the fall. It shows a bobcat through corn stalks getting closer and closer to the camera, then stopping mid-stride when it realizes something is wrong.

The cat stares straight at the man, then changes direction and walks away, slowly at first before breaking into a trot and disappearing into the woods.

Other videos show bobcats carrying dead squirrels and raccoons in their mouths. One photo shows a bobcat pulling a dead deer by the neck.

Some of the images show bobcats the size of a large house cat. In others, the creature looks as large as an adult golden retriever. For most, the pointed ears, short tail, and spotted fur leave no doubt that they are in fact a bobcat.

The conversation on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page generally revolves around the circumstances of sightings and DNR policies related to Bobcats.

The site’s keepers try to suppress side conversations related to alleged mountain lion sightings in Indiana, but such discussions occasionally surface.

However, the DNR says the only confirmed reports of mountain lions in the state came in the fall of 2009 and spring of 2010 in adjacent southern Clay County and northern Greene County. It is likely that the same mountain lion was seen at each location.

About 15 years ago, a farmer friend swore that he had twice seen a mountain lion on his Delaware County property during harvest time. However, he had no photos or videos to show.

According to the DNR, mountain lions last roamed Indiana in the late 19th century. Her return seems unlikely.

On the other hand, not so long ago, it would have been unlikely that bobcats would have thrived in what is now Indiana.