Sometimes you ask an imperfect question and get a perfect answer.

I asked wildlife biologist Bob Bluett, who has been tracking populations of Illinois’ bobcats for decades, about harvest in the state’s first modern hunting/trapping season, “How many were adult males? And does that number concern you in any way?”
He sent this back, “A recent study compared hunter/trapper reports of sex of bobcats they harvested to sex ratios determined from genetic samples. [Click here for that study.] About 20 percent were misclassified by hunters and trappers. Bad data are worse than no data, so we didn’t bother to ask.”

From the 500 permits for Illinois’ first modern bobcat season, 141 bobcats were reported: 69 by hunting, 49 by trapping, 12 by archery and 11 were salvaged from roads. The expected counties were tops: Pike (11), Jackson (10), Jefferson (7), Carroll (6) and Randolph (6). Click here for the breakdown.

More were harvested than I expected. I figured around 100. But Bluett was only off by nine from his initial harvest guess.

“A lot depended on who drew a permit in the lottery, and how they planned to take a bobcat if they got one,” he emailed. “In the end, I wasn’t all that surprised by our final harvest figures as we have a healthy population of bobcats and a skilled pool of people who were interested in taking one if they get a permit.”

Gretchen Steele, from Randolph County, was the only acquaintance who drew a permit.

“I just about outsmarted myself – I delayed/passed on a couple early in the season, waiting on the better winter pelts,” she messaged. “Then almost didn’t get one. Was down the wire and got mine just a couple of days before season ended. I was not surprised to see the counties the had the highest harvest totals, and certainly was not surprised that our county was in the top five.”

To me, the first season was about establishing a baseline and to begin building data. And a time to celebrate a top predator returning to healthy populations in Illinois.

IN MEMORY: Wes Serafin, south suburban birder noted for his quests, unexpectedly died this week. Mr. Serafin occasionally sent notes, the last in November about trout fishing on Rock Creek. The wake is 3-9 p.m. Friday at Zarzycki Funeral Home in Willow Springs.

HUNTING: Rabbit season ends today, Feb. 15. . . . If you received a free upland hunting permit or utilized the Windshield Card system, today. Feb. 15, is deadline for reporting.

WILD THINGS: A reminder to anyone who stares at feeders or out the window, or simply walks about, the Great Backyard Bird Count is Friday through Monday. I hope educators incorporate it.

STRAY CAST: “Pitchers and catchers report” this year feels like fishing the Patagonia for the first time (I assume).