Bobcats are known to be an elusive species that are rarely spotted by humans in Illinois, but after Will County wildlife officials documented two sightings in just six months, they knew they had a rare opportunity to see how far the cats have come since almost disappearing in the 1990s.
Becky Blankenship, a wildlife ecologist with the Will County Forest Preserve District, captured several photos of bobcats in September, and even more images in April.
The sightings occurred in the Sand Ridge Savana Nature Preserve and in the Kankakee Sands Preserve, located in Custer Township approximately 66 miles southwest of Chicago.
“The fact that we now have bobcat observations means something is going well,” said Blankenship. “The mother and kittens hung out at the same site for two weeks.”
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Blankenship says this is the first time bobcats have been spotted in these locations, a signal that habitat preservation and restoration is working.
In the 1990s, habitat loss and overharvesting led to dwindling numbers of the elusive cats until efforts to save the species helped reverse course.
Today, Will County officials estimate around 5,000 bobcats exist in Illinois, although sightings are incredible infrequent, especially in northeastern Illinois.
The night-vision cameras, placed on select trees in the nature preserve, are motion activated. When triggered, the cameras take a burst of three photos at a time, day and night.
Blankenship says bobcats don’t usually pose a threat to human beings because they only come out between twilight and dawn, shying away from human interaction.