Sunday, November 12, 2006

If you see a bobcat, you should feel lucky

Bobcat trapped near Eldon, Iowa

By SCOTT NILES Courier staff writer

ELDON — If you see a bobcat, you shouldn’t feel scared; you should feel lucky.

Because, said Stephanie Koehler, while accidentally trapping one of the elusive creatures is starting to happen more and more, it’s still a rarity.

Koehler, a research associate for Iowa State University in Ames, made a trip to Wapello County Wednesday. She helped release an adult male bobcat that was trapped, by accident, a mile or two south of Eldon.

A hunter was trying to trap a raccoon with a foothold trap, she said, when a 25-pound bobcat got caught instead.

“Most of the time, that is how it is,” she said. “Hunters are going for other animals and the bobcats get caught in the trap. People don’t hunt for bobcats.”

When bobcats are around, people generally don’t notice them. Koehler said the animal will disappear before being detected.

“They are not mean if they are not in a trap, but when they feel threatened, they might hiss and swat at you,” she said.

If you come across a trapped bobcat, you need to contact the local conservation office. Those officers will contact the Iowa Bobcat Research team.

“We go out there and use a pole syringe to administer anesthesia,” Koehler said. “Then once they are out, we will release them from the trap and put them in a pet taxi.

“Then we reverse the anesthesia, and when they are ready, we let them go back into the wild,” she said.

Don’t ever try and release the animal yourself.

Only about double the size of a house cat, a bobcat usually is a timid animal.

But, if the cat feels threatened, it can get mean, Koehler said.

Though Wapello County is not within their study area, Koehler said the team has been tracking bobcats in a nine-county range around Wapello County to detect patterns and numbers.

So far, the team has counted 74 bobcats within the last year.

Once considered an endangered species, bobcats have been placed in the less restrictive “protected” category.

So, while it is becoming more common to come across a bobcat, Koehler said it is still a lucky opportunity to see one in the wild.

“Not many people get the chance to see them in their natural environment,” she said.

Scott Niles can be reached at (641) 683-5360 or via e-mail at 313001557.html?keyword=secondarystory

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