GALLIPOLIS — James Burdette wasn’t sure what to do when he spotted a large bobcat next to the road during his early morning newspaper delivery route just north of Gallipolis.
“I wasn’t sure if it was alive or dead,” said Burdette, a newspaper carrier for the Gallipolis Daily Tribune.
Turns out it was dead, purportedly from a gunshot wound.
It was about 7:20 a.m. Wednesday when Burdette and another man pulled up to a residence on Burnheimer Road to deliver a newspaper. It was then that he spotted the animal “near the boxes.”
“I thought it was still alive the way it was perched,” Burdette said. “We kept looking for it to move, but found out it was dead. It had been shot.”
According to Roy Rucker, Gallia County’s wildlife officer for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the female bobcat suffered a gunshot wound behind its left shoulder.
“(Bobcats) are a threatened species in Ohio and they are very important to us,” Rucker said. “This bobcat was shot, but it’s still under investigation.”
In Ohio, bobcats are a threatened species, which means the animal is vulnerable to endangerment in the near future. But according to a proposal last month by the ODNR’s Wildlife Division, the agency is recommending that bobcats be removed from the threatened species list.
According to the ODNR website, bobcats were one of 71 species on Ohio’s first endangered list in 1974. However, the bobcat population began to rebound in the 1970s, and in recent years the number of verified sightings has continued to increase, prompting the status change from endangered to threatened in 2012.
Since bobcats are considered a protected species in Ohio with no hunting or trapping season, Rucker said fines, court costs and restitution are much steeper than it would be for killing a common animal not on a protected list.
“Bobcats are a hunted species in other states,” Rucker said. “But the population doesn’t warrant that here in Ohio.”
Burdette said he suspects the bobcat was killed a couple of hours before his arrival.
“It was stiffening up, but was still limber,” he said. “It hadn’t been dead that long, about two to three hours at least.”
Burdette said the experience has made him a bit more attentive to his surroundings.
“It makes you look twice when you stop at a box,” he said.