Photo Depicts Typically 'Solitary' Bobcats Traveling in a Group of Five

A native species to Ohio, bobcats are known for being solitary creatures that spend most of their time on their own. But a widely-shared photograph on social media shows a group of five bobcats nearly camouflaged into the trees and fallen leaves in the state's Warren Township.

Originally shared on Twitter by Ohio Office of Budget and Management Director Kimberly Murnieks, the picture was subsequently posted to the official Ohio Department of Natural Resources Facebook page where it has been shared more than 7,000 times.

"Check out this pic that my Dad caught on his #TrailCam in Washington County on the afternoon of Christmas Eve—five bobcats!" Murnieks tweeted with the photo that her father, Bill West, took.

She told Newsweek that the photo was taken at about 3 p.m. Her father lives on several acres of land, and Murnieks said his trail camera captured several other images of bobcats over the years. However, she does not believe he spotted one in person.

What makes the photograph of the group of five bobcats unusual is that, in addition to them being a more solitary species, it is quite unlikely to spot even one in the wild. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) noted that the species is nocturnal or crepuscular, meaning the animal is active at dusk and dawn.

Katie Dennison, a wildlife biologist with the ODNR and an expert on Ohio bobcats, told Newsweek that while bobcats are most active during dawn and dusk, they may also be active during the day.

Many trail camera sightings of bobcats that the department receives are taken during daylight hours.

"Generally, the bobcat is a solitary animal, territorial and elusive by nature," officials with the ODNR said.

Bobcat
A woman shared a photo on Twitter showing a group of five bobcats traveling together in Ohio. Above, a rescued bobcat waits to be fed at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. John Moore/Getty Images

According to the department, the bobcat population was once rooted out in 1850. But the species began to repopulate in the mid-1900s.

Bobcat sightings have become a regular occurrence in southeast and southern Ohio, Dennison said, though most of these sightings were indirect through a trail camera rather than in person. The state's division of wildlife reported 521 bobcat sightings submitted by the public in 2020.

While male bobcats are more tolerant of another male within their home range, adult females have "an extremely low tolerance" for other adult females within their home range.

Bobcats establish home ranges by marking territories with scrapes, urine and feces. There may be physical encounters, which are most common between two males during the breeding season.

With more than 7,000 shares on Facebook, people shared their thoughts under the photo. Some speculated it may have been a family photo of a mother bobcat with her babies.

National Geographic reported that females raise a litter of one to six kittens in a secluded den. These kittens stay with their mother from nine to 12 months and learn how to hunt before beginning their life of solitude.

"In Ohio, we see some bobcats start to disperse—leave their mother's home range to establish their own—in the fall, but they may also remain in the company of their mother until she breeds again," Dennison said.

Murnieks told Newsweek that she sent the image to the ODNR and they confirmed that it was, in fact, a family of bobcats.

"They're beautiful animals," she said. "It's a testament to the work the department of natural resources has done to protect the wildlife in our state."

Dennison said the bobcats in the photograph are likely to venture off on their own soon.

Others shared their own stories of when they spotted a bobcat. One person said that about eight years ago in northeast Ohio, he stopped for the bobcat as it crossed his path in front of him.

"After it crossed it paused in some tall grass, turned to look at me for a second then bounded off into the woods," the Facebook commenter wrote.

Ohio isn't the only area bobcats have been spotted this year. Newsweek previously reported that wildlife officials learned a bobcat gave birth inside a tree in California that was burnt out by forest fires.

Biologists started tracking the female bobcat more than a year after the Woolsey wildfire and noticed she was returning to the same spot. They found the bobcat inside of a tree, along with three kittens.

Updated 01/06/2021, 5:30 p.m. ET: This story has been updated with comments from wildlife biologist Katie Dennison.

Updated 12/30/21, 2:10 PM ET: with comments by Murnieks to Newsweek.