Operations Manager Lake Red Rock
Bobcats are occasionally observed at Lake Red Rock, but due to their wary nature and nocturnal habits, they are not commonly seen by visitors. According to Eric Hoffman, conservation officer with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR), bobcats also prefer heavily timbered areas which are usually less traveled. While Hoffman said he doesn’t receive many calls about bobcat issues, harvest reports show that their population in Marion County is increasing.
In the early 1900s, bobcats were common throughout the Midwest, but from the 1930s through the mid-1980s, numbers of the species observed were small or infrequent throughout most of our state. In 1977, they were placed on Iowa’s endangered species list. Over the last twenty years, however, there have been an increased number of sightings.
Bobcats primarily eat small mammals, such as rabbits, mice, voles and fox squirrels. During a study conducted by the DNR and Iowa State University, stomach contents from 150 bobcats showed that very few of them contained game birds such as pheasant and turkey.
According to the DNR, the agency de-listed the bobcat from Endangered to Threatened in 2001, and from Threatened to Protected status in September 2003. They were, however, given complete protection until the first regulated harvest season in 2007 through select areas of the state. In 2010, Marion County was added to the southern and western tiers of counties offering a harvest season for them - sixteen were harvested in our county that year, and fifteen were harvested in 2011.
While most visitors probably won’t see a bobcat, you could watch for their tracks. Approximately two inches by two inches in size, their prints include an “M” shaped palm pad with four toes in front of it. Due to their retractable claws, no claw marks would be visible in the track.
For more information, check out the Iowa DNR’s website at www.iowadnr.gov.