Save the bobcats, bobcats!
Ohio University's mascot may be seen all around campus, but the real feline is scarce across the state.
Thursday, November 19, 2009 - 16:59
Meet Rufus, the proud, motorcycle-driving, high-fiving mascot of Ohio University. Though he may be thriving on campus, the species for which he was named, Lynx rufus, is endangered in the state of Ohio. Though most OU students are proud to be bobcats, it seems that most don't know much about the forest carnivore. I was curious to see what other students knew about our small but mighty mascot:
Bobcat numbers began decreasing in the 18th and 19th centuries due to expansion that destroyed their habitat as well as some hunting. By 1850, the species was nearly extirpated.
In 2007, the Ohio Division of Wildlife began a bobcat research and restoration program, using camera traps and hair snares to document bobcat numbers and social patterns in different areas of Ohio. A camera trap consists of a small carpet pad scented with beaver castor oil and cat nip with blunt nails sticking out of it. The bobcats are attracted to the pad by scent and, since they are flashers, carnivores attracted by movement, also by a small turkey feather that is placed above the pad. Two infrared cameras that detect movement then snap pictures of the cats as they rub up against the pad, small bits of hair being snagged by the nails.
Wildlife biologist Suzie Prange, of ODNR, told College Green Magazine, "It used to be that I couldn't wait to get my hands on an animal, but now just getting pictures is so great."
Prange aims to determine the bobcat's range in Ohio as well as population numbers and the effects of seasons on detection rates. This will allow for more efficient detection of bobcats.
According to College Green Magazine, "Since 1970, there have been 255 verified reports of bobcats in Ohio. A verified report requires physical evidence of the animal such as roadkill or a photograph. Prange said many of the reports are from people who call in to the local Department of Natural Resources office and many of these sightings remain unverified."
We can only hope that the small predator will return to Ohio forests in abundance to keep small rodent populations down and restore its niche in the ecosystem.
And maybe future OU students can accurately tell you what their mascot really looks like.
Photos: Joe Brehm/College Green Magazine, Llivingroomtunes.com