Do bobcats roam the subdivisions of Rochester Hills?
That's a question the community is asking after a resident reported seeing "what looked like a large bobcat" run through his back yard on Sunday afternoon. The possible sighting was on Walton Boulevard west of Old Perch, and the resident identified large footprints in the yard immediately afterward, according to a news tip sent to Rochester Patch.
After posting a "be on the lookout" warning on the Rochester Patch Facebook page, several residents discredited the report - but others chimed in with their beliefs.
- "I know two people that over last seven months have seen a big cat, too," posted Dawn Barnes.
- "I saw one off Orion Road about five years ago," posted Linda Craig.
- "I saw a bobcat walk past me within 20 feet while bow hunting at Bald Mountain so I know there are some in this area," posted Kevin Campbell.
So what's the verdict?
Lance DeVoe, the Naturalist for the City of Rochester Hills, received the report of the presumed bobcat this week.
DeVoe said that although it's possible, it's not likely that what these residents have seen was a bobcat.
For starters, bobcats thrive in the forests of northern Michigan and Canada but are rarely seen south of Flint. "They prefer large areas of undeveloped land," DeVoe said.
Also, bobcats are nocturnal, so it would be rare to see them roam during the day. And they are highly secretive, so even if you find yourself in their natural environment, you would be lucky to spy one.
"All that being said, strange things happen all the time," DeVoe said.
In his 25 years on the job, DeVoe has investigated numerous reports of large cats spotted in city areas. Once, a resident reported seeing a large spotted cat crouched on his patio: he described it as a leopard. Two days later, an ocelot (a dwarf leopard) was captured in Shelby Township; the animal had escaped from the home of someone who was keeping it as an exotic pet.
Hotbed for coyotes
Wildlife expert Sue Neal agreed with DeVoe: a bobcat roaming Rochester Hills is not likely. But what is becoming more and more probable in the area are coyote sightings, she said.
"Coyotes are animals that can live in the urban environment, and so these sightings are much likely," said Neal, director of the Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve in Rochester.
But coyotes, like bobcats, are afraid of people, so they aren't to be feared. "There is no reason to panic," she said. "They are a danger to small animals left out unattended during twilight hours.
"But for people - people should be excited about the opportunity to see a large carnivore in the wild; it's a privilege, and we should learn to live with them."
DeVoe agreed with Neal's assessment of the opportunity.
"They are neat animals - muscular and beautiful," he said. "But this isn't something to be worried about.
"This is not going to become a hotbed for bobcats like coyotes. There just isn't enough space."