The site navigation utilizes arrow, enter, escape, and space bar key commands. Left and right arrows move across top level links and expand / close menus in sub levels. Up and Down arrows will open main level menus and toggle through sub tier links. Enter and space open menus and escape closes them as well. Tab will move on to the next part of the site rather than go through menu items.

Current Headlines

Candid Capture: Bobcats Caught on Camera, a Rare Wildlife Treat



Photo for: Candid Capture: Bobcats Caught on Camera, a Rare Wildlife Treat

Game cameras recently captured some rare and exciting photos of bobcats – possibly a mother and her kittens – walking through a small open area in Kankakee Sands Preserve.

The cameras, which are triggered by motion, are used in the preserves to document animal numbers and movements. The information obtained by the cameras helps guide the Forest Preserve District's land management strategies.

Photos of bobcats in the preserves are rare, said Becky Blankenship, the Forest Preserve’s wildlife biologist. So, capturing photos of the creatures was noteworthy.

RELATED READING: BOBCATS IN ILLINOIS? YOU BET

Learn more about this candid "capture" and the game camera program with 10 questions answered by Blankenship.

  1. How often do Forest Preserve game cameras capture bobcats? It happens only once every couple of years, so it’s always a treat to get a picture of a bobcat. The cameras are set up to take a three-photo burst when they detect motion. Then they have a 10-15 second delay before taking another burst if there is still movement in front of the camera. Game cameras also are called trail cameras and even camera traps, since they are "capturing" an image of the animal. Things to consider for camera placement are habitat, height, angle, and photo/video settings, and those all depend on the target species. Game trails are great locations for cameras since multiple species use them to move around easily. 
  2. Can you tell if the bobcats in the photos were male or female or their ages? Based on size, the photos recorded what appears to be a mother and at least two kittens. Females can reach sexual maturity a year after birth, so the mother is at least a year old, and the kittens were likely born this spring. Unfortunately, I cannot determine the sex of the kittens by the photos.
  3. Are bobcats found in many Will County preserves? We only have records of them at four preserves: Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve, Evans-Judge Preserve, Sugar Creek Preserve and now Kankakee Sands Preserve. It is very likely they occupy quite a few preserves and are just difficult to observe. 
  4. Why are bobcats hard to detect? They are crepuscular, active at twilight or just before sunrise, which makes them difficult to observe in person. Most of the bobcat photos were taken between 5-7 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. when it is dark, with a few midnight photos and a couple in the early light. 
  5. Why are bobcats so intriguing? Because bobcats are well camouflaged and excellent at avoiding people, they are a rare and beautiful sight. I have only seen a wild bobcat once, and the black-and-white photos do not do them justice. I also appreciate that they are skilled predators that help keep the rodent populations down. 
  6. How long will it be before you know if the bobcats photographed recently are preserve residents or just passing through? There are many variations in study results determining bobcat home ranges. Generally, males travel farther and have larger home ranges than females. Ideally, I would like to capture more images throughout the year to determine if they stay in the area.
  7. What is the status of bobcats in Illinois? According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, habitat loss and overharvesting of bobcats caused populations to decline severely enough to be listed as threatened in Illinois from 1977-1999. Since then, bobcat populations have responded so well to protection and habitat management that a very restricted hunting and trapping season has been in place since 2016. (Hunting is not allowed in the Forest Preserve District of Will County preserves.) IDNR estimates that there may be up to 5,000 bobcats in Illinois now, and their numbers are still on the rise.
  8. What other methods are used to determine what kind of animals live in the preserves? Other signs used to determine the species that are present include identifying scat, tracks, lodges, scrapes, feathers, etc. For instance, a deer will scrape the ground with its foot while eating, and turkeys scratch the ground to move leaf litter looking for things to eat. It all depends on the observer’s skill at identifying the animal responsible for the sign. The depth of an animal print in a substance and how old the print is are both variables in making a correct identification. The difference between felines and canines can be difficult to see. Typically, cat tracks lack claw marks since they can retract their claws, whereas canine tracks usually have nail marks. Tracks resembling bobcat paw prints have been recently observed at Laughton Preserve, so hopefully the game camera out there will capture a picture.
  9. Why does the Forest Preserve use game cameras to track wildlife and what other kinds of species are recorded with these cameras? Game cameras allow us to observe species without needing to be present, which is beneficial for observing nighttime activity, species occurrence patterns, and observing the more elusive species like bobcats, coyotes and foxes. The most common animals caught on camera are deer, squirrels, a variety of birds and raccoons. 
  10. Why is it important for the Forest Preserve to document the species that live in its preserves? The history of the bobcat in Illinois shows us the importance of managing habitat for the species that depend on it. Knowing what species occupy our preserves helps guide our habitat management practices. For example, knowing where we have spotted salamanders helps us determine which areas need to be prescribe burned in the very early spring or later in the fall. We want to make sure we time the burn when the salamanders are underground for hibernation and are protected from the fire. 

____________

Stay up-to-date on the happenings in Will County's forest preserves by subscribing to The Citizen, our weekly digital newsletter that provides subscribers with updates on Forest Preserve news, upcoming events, and other fun and useful information for the whole family. If you're only interested in programs, subscribe to The Weekly Five, which outlines the five must-do programs each week. Signing up for either newsletter is easy and free of charge.

News

Stone Repair Work Begins Monday at Messenger Marsh

10/23/2020

Use caution on the trail at Messenger Marsh preserve starting Monday, October 26, as workers will be using dump trucks and tractors to drop crushed limestone onto the trail.

Read More


Vermont Cemetery's History and Prairie Roots Showcased in Facebook Live Tour

10/23/2020

The virtual tour, led by program coordinator Jen Guest, will delve into the history of the people buried in the cemetery as well as the prairie remnant, untouched by human development, that is growing around the tombstones. 

Read More


COVID-19 Mitigation Measures Now in Effect

10/21/2020

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to 25 people and all program participants and facility visitors are required to wear face masks to help stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Read More


Sign up for a Newsletter