Bobcats may have been hiding in Jekyll Island for about 100 years. Cameras have recently captured photos of a bobcat, confirming the presence of the elusive cat on the islands.
Island state park officials installed cameras to monitor the white-tailed deer population on Jekyll Island. However, the cameras also captured some images of a lone bobcat. A photo from the 1900s, which depicted bobcat pelts hanging in a cabin, was the only other evidence that the cat lived on the island.
Park staff and residents of the island, which is located near the coast of Georgia, have reported bobcat sightings in the past. Rumors of a group of bobcats lurking have been going around throughout the 20th century. However, aside from the old photo, there was no evidence to prove the presence of bobcats on the island.
Jekyll Island Authority says that the camera captured images of a bobcat on two separate occasions in September this year. Officials believe that both sightings were of the same animal.
"It's the first definite, confirmed documentation of a bobcat on the island ever," said Ben Carswell, conservation director for Jekyll Island. "We have no way to be sure whether this animal showed up recently on Jekyll. They're such secretive animals; it could be this one and others have been out here for some time."
Park authorities conducted a follow-up study to find more bobcats on the islands. They left bait at about 50 locations across Jekyll Island to lure bobcats. However, the bait attracted other predators, such as raccoons and gray foxes.
Carswell believes that there is only one bobcat on Jekyll Island and that it is likely that the lone bobcat reached the island from the mainland either by swimming the marsh or via the five-mile causeway that leads to the island.
Since island officials think that there is only a single bobcat on the island, the idea that the elusive cat inhabits Jekyll Island remains uncertain. Experts believe that a lone bobcat is not sufficient to prove that the island is indeed among its natural habitats in the country. Breeding pairs should also exist on the island if there is, in fact, a bobcat population there.
Jekyll Island officials believe that bobcats may have existed on the island to limit the population of deer and raccoons, but they may have been exterminated due to hunting in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Carswell says that bobcats do not come across humans intentionally, so the lone bobcat on the island poses no threat to visitors or residents.