Last updated: March 18, 2009 2:07 p.m.
The Journal Gazette
If you go
What : Beechwood Bobcats, a free program about the breed
When : 11 a.m. Saturday
Where : Beechwood Nature Preserve in Steuben County
Directions : From Fort Wayne, take Interstate 69north to Exit 154; just before the entrance to Pokagon State Park, turn right (north) onto Indiana 127; drive about three-quarters of a mile to Lane 150; preserve is on the left
How to prepare : Participants should wear hiking boots or hiking shoes and dress for the weather
While visiting Beechwood Nature Preserve in Steuben County last year, hikers from Michigan said they watched a bobcat that lingered beside a stream for about 30 minutes.
Though unconfirmed, the sighting of the elusive feline wasn't the county's first.
Photographs taken in 2005 by an infrared trail camera set up along a marsh captured multiple images of bobcats.
The public can learn more about bobcats Saturday during "Beechwood Bobcats," a program offered by ACRES Land Trust at the preserve.
The Indiana Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program reports confirmed bobcat sightings in Steuben, LaGrange and DeKalb counties, though the animal is more commonly found in southern Indiana.
Once considered endangered, the bobcat is now listed by Indiana as a species of special concern, indicating the animal needs special monitoring because of possible limited numbers and distribution.
Bobcats, named for their short tails, are generally 30 to 50 inches long and about 2 feet tall, weighing 30 to 50 pounds, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of Fish and Wildlife. The carnivorous cat once ranged throughout the state, but its numbers dropped drastically after habitat was lost to settlement.
Fresh tracks in the snow led Scott Banfield, a hunter who operates a lake management company near Angola, to set up the trail camera in 2005.
Banfield, who suspected the tracks might have been left by bobcats, said the area is about a half-mile northeast of Lake Gage at the edge of a large marsh that drains to the lake.
After moving the location of the scent lure near the camera, Banfield met success with a series of photos taken over a two-day period revealing the bobcats.
Since the original photographs were taken, Banfield said the property owners have said they continue to hear the cat's cry at night, an eerie sound some compare to that of a child or woman screaming.
"There's a scream that they make. A growl, or a scream," Banfield said.
During Saturday's program, participants will enjoy a hike and a presentation that will share specifics about the bobcat, according to Shane Perfect, ACRES Land Trust project manager.
Despite last year's report of a bobcat sighting, visitors won't likely spot a bobcat during the hike, Perfect said.
"More often than not, they don't want you to see them."
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org