Bobcat, Maybe

by Carl Strang

Yesterday as I approached the Poverty Savanna at Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve with a group of teachers in my Field Ecology class, I looked down and saw this footprint.

The animal that made it had crossed the dirt track when the clay was still rain-softened. The vegetation was dense on either side, and tires of patrol vehicles had obliterated any other tracks the mammal made. This track looked odd enough that I took some time to examine it. The only possible toenail mark is off the tip of the right outer toe. If that is a toenail mark, it is tiny and well off the toe tip, unlike any canid’s toenail. The heel mark is oddly lobed. The footprint is almost 2.5 inches long. The overall arrangement is unlike the tracks of dogs, foxes or coyotes. All of this had me thinking, bobcat.

There have been reports of bobcat signs at Waterfall Glen over the years. I learned that Forest Preserve District natural resources staff heard cries they identified as bobcat one night this past spring. I have made many a winter trip into that southern part of that preserve in search of bobcat tracks, but never have found any. I have seen bobcat tracks perhaps half a dozen times in other parts of the country, so my experience is limited. The weakest point in my case for this footprint as a bobcat track (apart from being limited to just one footprint) is the shape of the heel mark’s anterior margin. There should be an indentation marking the boundary of two lobes. I see a tiny one, enough I think to make the case, but I can’t say that anyone going on just this photo should be convinced.

It is reasonable to think that bobcats may wander widely over the forested area on either side of the Des Plaines River in DuPage and Cook Counties, but I doubt that any of these felids are permanent residents of Waterfall Glen.



  1. Matthew Ignoffo said,

    June 30, 2011 at 9:55 am

    I had seen a bobcat @ WG in 2007. If you are interested in any details feel free to contact me.

    Matthew Ignoffo

  2. Edward said,

    June 18, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Hello, I live in Norfolk UK, and I may have found some paw prints of a big cat. I wondered if it would be possible to use your image of bobcat paw prints along side the prints I have photographed to give a sense of scale. If the prints I have photoghraped are confirmed cat prints then the images may potential appear in public, newspapers etc. So I would like to request permission first.

    Kind regards,

    • natureinquiries said,

      June 18, 2012 at 5:52 am

      Hi, Ed,
      If scale is your interest, you should make clear that bobcat tracks are not much larger than those of domestic cats, and there is overlap with the occasional very large domestic cat. As long as that is clear, you may use the photo.

  3. benjamin beringer said,

    January 18, 2013 at 12:13 am

    Saw a bobcat today at waterfall glen. No doubt. found your posting after searching for info.

    • natureinquiries said,

      January 18, 2013 at 6:44 am

      Thanks, Benjamin, any details would be of great interest. I’m guessing you didn’t get a chance to take a picture, but even the location within the preserve, and the bobcat’s behavior when you saw it would be useful.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: