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Since 1970 when the Ohio Division of Wildlife started documenting bobcat sightings in the state, no observances have ever been verified in Holmes County.
That is until recently, when a bobcat was found dead on April 25 in Holmes County's Killbuck Township (near Ohio 520 and Ohio 62).
While that's bad news for the bobcat, it's good news for the county's wildlife diversity.
"No doubt we believed there were bobcats in Holmes County, but we've never had a confirmed sighting," said Laurie Graber, a wildlife research technician for the Division of Wildlife in charge of monitoring bobcat and bears sightings in District Three. "With no sightings in Wayne or Holmes counties, this road kill is pretty exciting."
The Division of Wildlife has had "unverified" sightings of bobcats in both Wayne and Holmes counties over the years.
Ohio's bobcat population started taking off in 2001, when strip mine land in Noble, Harrison and Jefferson counties in southeast Ohio became prime bobcat habitat.
"Bobcats really prefer early succession habitat, thick and nasty stuff," said Graber.
"We've got two distinct populations of bobcats in Ohio, and the Noble County population is the one that's self-sustaining," she continued. "They're breeding and expanding."
In the fall or winter, juvenile males head out to find new territory.
It's those bobcats that are dispersing to other counties, slowly moving north. Graber's numbers tell the story -- numbers accumulated from incidentally trapped bobcats, ODNR personnel sighting, road kill finds and trail camera sightings.
"It's a natural progression," said Graber.
A 2014 Ohio Division of Wildlife bobcat report notes that there had been 1,195 "verified" sightings since 1970, with the majority of those since 2000. There were another 2,300 "unverified" reports over that 44-year period.
Recently, though, reports of bobcat sightings have slowed down, with the thought that there is a decreased interest in reporting sightings, such as those caught on a hunter's trail camera.
Graber, though, would be interested in reports from anyone who has spotted a bobcat in the area.
"Call the district office (330-644-2293) and ask for me," said Graber. "I welcome any sightings."
The reason for the excitement of seeing a bobcat in Holmes County, even if it was killed on the road, is the solitary nature of the animal. Bobcats are very territorial and elusive. Adult females have an extremely low tolerance for other adult females in their home range, while the males are more permissive of another male within the home range.
A bobcat's diet consists of mostly meat, including rabbits, mice and squirrels, where they lie in wait to ambush their prey. Bobcats will also eat insects, snakes, amphibians and birds.
The bobcat was removed from the Ohio Endangered and Threatened Species List in July 2014, but remains protected (no harvest season).