By Scott Underwood
Some of the images are grainy black-and-whites.
Some show shadowy, ghostly creatures partially indistinguishable from the forest floor surroundings.
But many of the photos and videos are sharp, colorful and undeniable. They show bobcats roaming the woods of Indiana.
You can find these images on the Facebook page “Bobcat Sightings in Indiana 2021-2022.” It’s a private page, meaning you have to become a member to peruse the content.
I’m addicted to the Bobcat Sightings page. One day last week, I realized I had spent a full hour clicking around on it.
I’m captivated by the fact that true wildcats breathe, breed and stalk the wild lands of the Hoosier State. Even the photos of dead bobcats on Indiana roadways, while tragic, lend credence to the idea that such creatures have become plentiful.
Here’s what the Indiana Department of Natural Resources website has to say about bobcats: “Bobcats, the only resident native wildcat in Indiana, are common in southern and parts of central Indiana and increasing in northern Indiana. They are rarely seen because of their ability to blend into their surroundings and move silently.”
The DNR reports that bobcats have been reported in almost all 92 of Indiana’s counties. Recent images on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page show bobcats in Jackson, Bartholomew, Brown, Scott, Jennings, Cass, Hamilton, Morgan and numerous other counties.
I have yet to run across any images of bobcats in Madison County. But I’m sure they’re out there, and I’m guessing that some of you might be able to relate local bobcat sightings, perhaps even provide photos. (If so, please email me)
As in other parts of the state, these images are most likely to come from hunters of deer, turkey and other game. Many images on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page come, as well, from folks who set up trail cams.
Some of these folks are hunters. Others are, like me, simply interested in the variety of animal species in our midst.
According to Indiana Woodland Steward, a group dedicated to promoting “the wise use of Indiana’s forest resources,” unregulated hunting and reduction of habitat landed bobcats on the state’s endangered species list in 1969.
With its population rebounding as habitat has increased, the bobcat was removed from the list in 2005, but it remains a protected species in Indiana. Hunting and trapping are prohibited.
My favorite recent posting on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page is a video taken by a man from a treeline at the edge of a cornfield in the fall. It shows a bobcat through cornstalk stubble, drawing closer and closer to the camera, then stopping midstride as it realizes something isn’t quite right.
The cat stares directly toward the man, then switches directions and walks away, first slowly 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 dragging a dead deer by the neck.
Some of the images reveal bobcats about the size of a large house cat. In others, the creature looks the size of a full-grown golden retriever. In most, pointed ears, bobbed tail and spotted coat leave no doubt that the creature is indeed a bobcat.
Conversation on the Bobcat Sightings Facebook page generally revolves around the circumstances of sightings and DNR policies related to bobcats.
The keepers of the page attempt to suppress side conversations related to purported mountain lion sightings in Indiana, but such discussions pop up occasionally.
The DNR, however, says the only confirmed reports of mountain lions in the state came in the fall of 2009 and the spring of 2010 in contiguous southern Clay County and northern Greene County. It’s probable that the same mountain lion was seen in each location.
About 15 years ago, a farmer friend of mine swore he saw a mountain lion twice at harvest season on property he farms in Delaware County. He had no photos or video to show, though.
According to the DNR, mountain lions last roamed Indiana in the late 1800s. Their return seems improbable.
Then again, not too long ago, it would have seemed improbable for bobcats to thrive in modern-day Indiana.
Scott Underwood is editor of the Herald Bulletin in Anderson. Send comments to [email protected]town.com.