Indiana Man Photographs Endangered Bobcats
ANGOLA, Ind. A northeastern Indiana hunter who found mysterious animal tracks in a swamp set up an infrared-activated camera that captured images of two endangered bobcats.
The photographs add to growing evidence that the felines are on the rebound in Indiana after years of decline because of overhunting, population growth and farming expansion.
"It's just neat to know they're out there," said hunter Scott Banfield, who operates a lake management company near Angola, about 40 miles north of Fort Wayne.
He set up his camera in January after noticing strange tracks that he thought might be coyote tracks.
Banfield photographed the tracks and posted them on a hunting Web site, where an Arizona man saw them and identified them as bobcat prints.
Determined to photograph the bobcats, Banfield mounted his camera on a tree near where he saw the tracks. He smeared the tree with beaver scent because bobcats are believed to hunt beaver.
The camera, which snaps photos when a heat-producing body passes in front of it, got no bobcat photos the first time. Banfield tried again, this time turning the camera around so that it faced into the swamp. He coated the tree again with beaver scent and also tossed a scented stick into the camera's field of view.
"I left the camera out for a month straight and didn't touch it," Banfield said.
When he returned in February, he had captured 19 photographs -- nine of them images of bobcats, including a pair that was walking side by side in the muck at the swamp's edge.
Banfield said the cats could be a female and its offspring, or siblings.
"There isn't much of a size difference, but one of them is smaller," he said.
Scott Johnson, a non-game biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Bloomington office, said the area in northwestern Steuben County where Banfield put his camera is ideal bobcat territory.
Located in Indiana's natural lakes region, it is filled with waterfowl, rare fish and mussels that thrive in the area's lakes and streams.
"There's a lot of neat habitat up there," he said.
Bobcats are listed as an endangered species in Indiana. They weigh 15 to 30 pounds, are nocturnal, eat mainly small mammals and fowl and have distinct short tails and tufted ear hair.
They are considered rare in northern and central Indiana, but are comparatively common in parts of southern Indiana's hill country.
Source: Associated Press