First bobcat photographed in Miami Natural Areas

Bobcat walking on a fallen tree in the woods.A trail camera placed and monitored by Miami University students captured a video of a bobcat, the first known photograph of this elusive and solitary animal taken in Miami’s Natural Areas, a 1,000 acre preserve that forms a green belt around campus.

Elea Cooper, a senior biology major working with biology professor David Gorchov, set up 24 trail cameras as part of her Undergraduate Summer Scholars project designed to provide baseline data on white-tailed deer abundance and the resulting damage to tree seedlings. The cameras were placed in the Natural Areas as well as the Ecology Research Center (ERC).

One of the unexpected results was the bobcat sighting. The secretive animals prey on rabbits, amphibians and other small animals and are not a danger to humans. Bobcats, which were found in Ohio before 1850, began to recolonize in the mid 1900s. Bobcat sightings, while becoming more common, are still rare in southwestern Ohio.

Over the summer the two dozen cameras recorded 1,300 images of deer, plus many images of squirrels and raccoons, and a few of wild turkeys and coyotes. All images were downloaded and evaluated by Cooper (over the summer) and senior zoology major Chloe Hill (in the early fall).

In mid-October, the camera settings were changed from still photographs to video by sophomore biology major Sam Norton to document what deer were feeding on. Norton discovered the bobcat video Nov. 7.

Professor Gorchov explained that data from the monitoring project will help assess the effectiveness of a recently approved deer management program. Approved hunters will be allowed to bow hunt from tree stands in selected areas of the Natural Areas and ERC from Nov. 19 to Feb. 5, 2023. All stands are located away from popular hiking trails.

Miami’s plan is based on the success and safety of established programs in the City of Oxford, Cincinnati Parks, and Great Parks of Hamilton County. The goal is to address the multiple impacts of over-abundant white-tailed deer on the ecosystem, including browsing of tree seedlings, which jeopardizes forest sustainability by killing or stunting young trees.

Miami’s Natural Areas was designated by President Paul Pearson in 1992 “to be preserved and protected for approved uses in education, research, recreation, and observation” “in perpetuity.” The Natural Areas covers over 1000 acres, with hiking trails enjoyed by students and Oxford residents.

This first known photograph of a bobcat within the Natural Areas signals that these areas are of high conservation value for native wildlife, according to Gorchov.

For more information on bobcats, visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.