West Virginia is wild and wonderful.
But does that apply to state wildlife too? Maybe, maybe not.
Especially after a Marion County community’s social media post of a bobcat along a local road.
The City of Pleasant Valley Facebook post featured the picture taken near a local bowling alley that has prompted a lively debate.
How close is too close for wildlife? When does it become dangerous? What precautions should be taken?
Many questioned whether it really was a bobcat, while others took issue with city officials’ plea to watch out for children and pets.
Hunters also got into the online discussion.
Several described having seen bobcats, coyotes and even bears in this area as well as other nearby wooded parcels.
One man said folks would be surprised to know how many black bears cross adjacent Interstate 79 on a regular basis.
None of this comes as a surprise to Gary Foster, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources assistant chief in charge of game management.
Not only did he previously work in Marion County, Foster is also familiar with bobcat populations across the state.
He’s also keeping track of an ongoing study to better identify and understand these numbers.
Today, bobcat populations are stable throughout most of North America, but various agencies continue to monitor them in order to ensure it stays that way. You can more about this study’s preliminary findings in WV DNR’s newsletter. Although rarely spotted by humans, bobcats roam much of the continent, including rural areas west of Washington, DC.
There’s a healthy and stable, possibly even growing, population.
And bobcats are found in every county, although some more rural areas may have more of them.
Most people don’t realize how common they are because the cats are nocturnal, so aren’t often seen in daylight when folks are out and about.
The good news is that there’s no report of a bobcat having ever attacked a human in West Virginia, he said.
Although the animal in the photo blended into the landscape, Foster said it is very likely a bobcat.
That also makes sense because the development in the immediate area gives way to much more secluded spots, including isolated hollows and the Tygart River is also not far away, he said.
“As a bobcat travels, it really isn’t far away at all.”