Wauconda area bobcat sighting causes curiosity
Lake County Forest Preserve officials said Sunday there has been a rare sighting of a bobcat in the Wauconda area.
Jim Anderson, forest preserve director of natural resources, said officials have reviewed photos taken by a local resident who spotted the cat last Friday in Wauconda's Lakeview Villa subdivision, west of the Lakewood Forest Preserve.
"It's got all the characteristics," he said. "We're almost certain it's a bobcat."
The feline could have come from the south, north or west, he added.
"McHenry County Conservation District has some critter cams up and they caught a picture of a bobcat," Anderson said. "It's very possible that they are in the region. Their numbers have been increasing."
In 1999, bobcats were removed from Illinois' list of state threatened species after studies confirmed their growing numbers. Today, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources estimates the population has grown to 5,000 statewide.
The feline's comeback is largely attributed to conservation efforts by IDNR, with the help of trappers and hunters. There have been reliable sightings in 99 of 102 Illinois counties, according to IDNR.
Lake County Forest Preserve officials now want to confirm the animal's presence themselves by setting up cameras in the Lakewood Forest Preserve, along the eastern border of Wauconda near where the cat was spotted. The cameras likely will be set up this week, Anderson said.
"We do monitoring all over the forest preserves on a regular basis," he said. "We'll have some extra cameras and focus on this area to try to document it."
Bobcats prefer large forested tracts with immature trees, thick underbrush, clearings, cliffs and timbered swamps. They tend to make homes in fallen trees, hollow logs or trees, thickets, caves and rock piles, and sometimes in abandoned or little-used barns and buildings.
Their diet consists of mice, voles, rabbits and squirrels, according to IDNR.
The more than 3,000 acres within Lakewood Forest Preserve would be a "suitable habitat" for bobcats with its large open spaces, wetlands, woodlands and prairie, Anderson said.
Catching a glimpse of a bobcat is a rare treat as they are highly secretive, secluded animals not used to being around humans, he added.
"I don't remember of any sightings last year or the year before," he said.
While there has been a move to allow hunting bobcats in southern Illinois, Anderson doesn't believe it should be allowed in the northern parts at this time.
"We haven't documented how big the population is in northern Illinois," he said. "As the population increases, (state) will start setting hunting rules for that species."
Anderson cautioned that bobcats are not like domestic cats, and anyone coming into contact with one should try to scare it away and report the sighting to authorities.
"You can scream at them and they will take off," he said. "They are wild critters ... probably a little feisty. I wouldn't want to mess with one."
For information on dealing with wildlife, residents can visit the forest preserve district website, lcfpd.org or call Lake County Animal Care and Control at (847) 377-4700.