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Bobcat Sightings On The Rise In Southern Wisconsin

DNR Says It's Unsure What's Driving Trend

Valerie (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Residents in southern Wisconsin are reporting an increased number of bobcat sightings.

For the past 20 years it was assumed that the animals were mostly relegated to prowling Wisconsin’s Northwoods, but according to DNR furbearer scientist Nathan Roberts, that mindset has changed.

“What’s exciting about southern Wisconsin is that a couple decades ago, bobcat sightings and hearing of bobcats in that area was relatively rare. Now we hear it fairly frequently. People are encountering bobcats a lot more often in these areas,” he said.

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The question though, is why?

“I think a lot of it is that we haven’t looked before,” Roberts said.

He also pointed to the possibility of over-hunting and over-trapping: “The population in the southern part of the state and more farmland type area of the Midwest could have been overharvested in the past, and it’s just taken a while to rebound.”

In 2014, the DNR estimated the southern bobcat population was stable enough to reopen a bobcat hunting and trapping season after a 20-year pause. That first year, a 50-cat quota was set for southern Wisconsin. In 2015 it was doubled to 100.

For both years, the quota was filled before the end of the season, which runs from Oct. 18, to Jan. 31.

The DNR has been using GPS tracking collars for a bobcat population study in northern Wisconsin. Roberts said he hopes to conduct a similar study in the southern part of the state.

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