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Bobcat population grows in Wisconsin

Bobcat (Photo source: Wisconsin DNR/Herbert Lange)

MADISON (AP) -- Wildlife experts say the number of bobcats is growing in Wisconsin.

State Natural Resources Department officials gave the department's board a bobcat update Wednesday, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported .

The department estimates that northern Wisconsin had about 3,500 bobcats in 2016, compared to 1,500 bobcats in 1980. The population in southern Wisconsin is unknown, but future research may allow the department to make an estimate, said Nathan Roberts, a furbearer research scientist with the department.

The secretive felines are hard to observe and track, he said. The animals tend to be most active at dawn, dusk and after dark. An increase of trail cameras in the state have helped researchers better document the animals.

"Since many people never see them, it's a cryptic animal," Roberts said. "But they are definitely widespread and doing well."

Experts say the growing bobcat population likely has been aided by the state's regulation of bobcat harvesting through the implementation of a hunting permit system in 1980 in northern Wisconsin.

"Bobcats are a true Wisconsin success story," Roberts said.

A portion of the permit money goes toward research. The funding has allowed the department to use high-tech methods to track the bobcat population.

The department has put more than 60 GPS collars on bobcats in the state over the last three years.

"We've worked closely with trappers to collar bobcats the trappers did not want to or could not keep," Roberts said.

Roberts said he's confident the bobcat population will continue to thrive with the current level of hunting under the department's monitoring.

The average Wisconsin bobcat weighs between 20 to 35 pounds, but some adult males can weigh as much as 50 pounds. Bobcats tend to stand between 12 to 18 inches tall and are about 3 feet long.

They typically hunt rabbits and small rodents, but can also kill birds and deer.

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