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August 2019 Natural Mystery Answered

posted Sep 6, 2019, 11:29 AM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Sep 6, 2019, 11:31 AM ]
Our August Natural Mystery was a scene from our 2018 Cloquet Wildlife Survey. On August 17, we held our 2019 survey at the Cloquet Forestry Center. You can read about that survey and what our teams found here. We didn't see any sign from this species in our 2019 survey, but a number of you had no trouble identifying the culprit in this photo. Congratulations to Paul Glasser, Kim Cabrera, Katherine Greene, Brendan White & Kirsten Welge who all sent in correct answers.

This is the scat and tracks of a bobcat. Beginning with the scat, Kim notes that it has:

"a segmented appearance and appears to be densely packed with fur, which is twisted up inside. The outer coating is smooth. There is grayish material inside too. All characteristic of felid scats. A scrape is not obvious, but bobcats do not always make scrapes."

Katherine, Brendan & Kirsten echoed many of these points, while also noting the blunt ends on the scat. Kirsten goes on to measure the scat at "roughly 7", with a max diameter of 1" [placing] it on the larger side for bobcat."

Nearly everyone also commented on the tracks. Katherine went into the most detail, offering these observations:

"The print at top right above the ruler shows 4 toes, and a large heel pad relative to the toes. The toes are not symmetrical to the heel pad. The negative space between the toes and the heel pad is "C" shaped and narrow. The length of roughly 2" is within range. The overall shape of the track is round/wide, not elongated/oval."

Finally, Katherine reminds us that the Cloquet Forestry Center is within the known range for bobcats. Bobcats range widely across most of the United States, but are absent from a band that extends from Upstate New York to the Eastern Dakotas. They were exterminated in most of the Ohio Valley, upper Missisipi Valley, and southern Great Lakes region in the early 1900s(1), but in recent decades have been reestablishing themselves in much of this historical range as shown both by the IUCN Red List's range map, and observations on iNaturalist. They are still absent from Southwestern Minnesota and rare near the metro area, but they are common and well established near the western tip of Lake Superior.

Thanks again to Paul, Kim Katherine, Brendan & Kirsten for sharing your answers and insights.

  1. Peterson, R.L., & Downing, S. C. (1952). Notes on the bobcats (Lynx rufus) of eastern North America with the description of a new race. Contributions of the Royal Ontario Museum of Zoology and Palaeontology, 33:1-23. Cited in Lariviere, S., & Walton, L. R. (1997). Lynx rufus. Mammalian Species, (563), 1.

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