At least two people in the Elgin area have reported seeing what they believe to be a bobcat in residential areas.
Jenelle Heaton, who lives in Elgin off Congdon Avenue and Prospect Avenue, e-mailed Kane County Connects on Jan. 20 saying she was in her barn around 8 a.m., when she saw what appeared to be a bobcat, aka Lynx rufus.
“It was sniffing around the lot lines out back,” she wrote. “I had glanced out and saw something move which caught my eye. (It blended pretty well with the tree line.) It had stripes near its hind quarters and spots/freckling toward its chest. Very dark in color and black tips on its ears. Medium size.
“It was such a surprise! Originally, when it moved, I was going to brush it off as a coyote, but it definitely was not canine in nature but feline and larger.
“It was in my eyesight out back for only a minute or two and walked off toward River Bluff Road. My phone was upstairs as I literally had just made coffee and was feeding our pets their morning meals. We have seen large prints in the snow and have wondered years past. … Now I think we have our answer.”
Heaton also asked where she might report a bobcat sighting in Kane County, but the answer wasn’t easy to find online.
So I reached out to Naturalist Valerie Blaine, nature programs manager for the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, and Pam Otto, manager of nature programs and interpretive services at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center, a facility of the St. Charles Park District. Blaine also consulted with Forest Preserve District of Kane County Wildlife Biologist Bill Graser.
“When I talked to Bill, he basically confirmed what I had said earlier: A sighting cannot be confirmed without solid evidence, such as photographs, prints, and/or scat,” Blaine said. “Also, due to limited staff and resources, the district doesn’t generally check non-forest preserve sightings. Bear in mind that over the course of a year, we receive numerous reports of sightings of unusual wildlife — wolves, bobcats, cougars, et al.”
So, while people often contact the Forest Preserve District or Hickory Knolls when they see some relatively rare animal, there’s really no official local reporting place.
According to the University of Illinois Extension website, there is a form you can fill out to report unusual wildlife to The Illinois Department of Natural Resources, but the wildlife they’re looking for does not include bobcats.
That said, be sure to contact the IDNR if you happen see a mountain lion, wolf, black bear, armadillo, elk, non-native deer, or feral swine in Illinois. Those sightings help the IDNR monitor range expansions of wildlife species or their escape from captive situations.
Another Bobcat Sighting?
Otto said she recently received a report of an alleged bobcat in Elgin, near the Century Oaks area, and even had a photo of the animal. But the tail was long and non-bobbed and likely wasn’t a bobcat.
However, Otto said Heaton’s cat sighting could have been the real deal.
“The animal you saw sounds a lot more credible, and I applaud your being awake enough, pre-coffee, to even register that there was a critter outside,” she said to Heaton via e-mail. “If you happen to see it again, and there’s snow on the ground, could you take a pic of the prints? Maybe even place something like a pen next to them so we can get some idea of the scale? That would be awesome.”
According to the IDNR website, bobcat mating peaks in February, but the season can last from early January through June, so now might be a more-likely time to see one in search of a mate.
The problem with any wildlife sighting, of course, is that it’s hard to get a photo and the initial sighting often turns out to be a dud.
“I recall one of the first ‘hot news items’ when I started as a naturalist with the district (1994), was a black bear sighting,” Blaine said. “This one had a photograph to boot. The person was adamant that it was a bear, in a tree. Turned out to be a woodchuck. So, we are judicious in following leads.”
Apparently, the recovery of the bobcat in Illinois is such a success story that the IDR resumed bobcat hunting and trapping during the 2016-17 season. Presently, Bobcat hunting and trapping season dates are Nov. 10, 2017 through Feb. 15, 2018. Permits are required.
You can read more about bobcats on the IDNR website.
SOURCE: NIU Library
Size: Adult males average 25 pounds, while adult females average 15.
- Home range: Adult males occupy a 36-square mile territory, while adult females live in a 12-square-mile area.
- Breeding: Two to four kittens are born in dens in caves, hollow trees or barns. Kittens are reared by their mother. Male kittens between the ages of 1 and 2 venture off to stake out their own territories.
- Diet: Bobcats mainly hunt mice, voles squirrels, rabbits and entrails left by deer hunters.
- Life expectancy: Up to 12 years , although under optimal conditions, bobcats could live 15 to 20 years.