CLEVELAND — A camera in the Cleveland Metroparks captured historic photos recently, showing a bobcat prowling through the underbrush. It's the first modern sighting of a bobcat in Cuyahoga County since 1850, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, the Metroparks said.
"Typically bobcats like more natural areas, thicker vegetation, because they really try to stay away from people," said Jon Cepek, a wildlife ecologist with Cleveland Metroparks.
The photos were taken on July 9 and Oct. 6.
Bobcats were one of seven wild cat species found across the country and common in Ohio until they were extirpated in 1850, ODNR said.
Cepek said that's when humans settled into Ohio, taking out natural woodlands and forests.
"It's really exciting if we think about it from a conservation standpoint, especially with a species that really tries to avoid us and takes advantage of these natural areas. So, we're doing better protecting habitat and setting aside natural areas for species like this," said Cepek. "Early on in our history, as we cleared Ohio Forest, we lost a lot of our forest, and that took an impact, so as we see natural areas come back, that offers them the opportunity for habitat that they prefer."
In the mid-1900s, bobcats started making a comeback in Ohio, though sitings of them are still considered rare. There have only been about 3,500 sightings in the entire state since 1850. Cuyahoga's neighboring counties, like Summit County, have had sightings, but this bobcat is the first in Cuyahoga County in nearly 200 years.
Bobcats are small, weighing 15 to 35 pounds, with short, dense, soft fur ranging in color from light gray to reddish brown. They generally have white fur under their legs with dark spots. Their distinctive ears are black with white spots, according to ODNR.
Bobcats are solitary hunters and territorial. They eat various small mammals like rabbits, birds, insects, and other small game like reptiles and amphibians. They have also been known to eat white-tailed deer, an "important component of the bobcat's diet," ODNR said.
Cepek said if you see one in the wild, don't be scared. He said to take in the rare sight and leave it alone, which is the state it likes to be in, anyways.
"That thing is probably going to run and hide as quickly as it can from people. So take advantage if you have the rare chance to see it," he said.
CLICK HERE to read more about bobcats from ODNR.
The photos are significant because it's the first time the cats have been seen in our area in decades. They are much more prevalent in the southern part of the state, where there is a larger concentration of forests.
According to the Metroparks, bobcat sightings are extremely rare in Ohio. Only a few hundred are reported across the state each year.
If you spot a bobcat, you can report it to ODNR by CLICKING HERE.
Drew Scofield and Jessi Schultz at WEWS first reported this story.