By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is not unusual to see deer and coyote tracks in southern Minnesota this time of year.

But now another animal is calling that part of the state “home.”

The number of reported bobcat sightings have gone up over the past year.

“Wildlife doesn’t always cooperate, so it’s not predictable,” said Joe Stangel of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “You never know.”

Until recently, spotting a bobcat this far south was extremely rare. But Stangel has recently received trail cam photos from Blue Earth and Jackson counties.

A coyote trapper south of Mankato caught a bobcat just before Christmas, and safely released it.

While it’s legal to trap bobcats in northern Minnesota, it’s illegal to trap them in the southern part of the state. Trappers who catch a bobcat are required to let them go.

bobcat photographed in jackson county Bobcat Sightings On The Rise In Southern Minnesota

A bobcat photographed in Jackson County (credit: CBS)

But the DNR still isn’t exactly sure why bobcats, which can grow up to 50 pounds, are making tracks in new areas.

“Is it a population threshold they’re needing to start to really expand? Is it warmer winters? is it a change in habitat, or forest age? We’re not really sure what’s behind it,” Stangel said.

What they are sure of is that it’s a good sign. Similar stories are being reported in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.

“It’s just a good success story, and they’re really a neat, highly-valuable fur bearer,” Stangel said. “It would be a good part of the natural community to have around.”

Stangel said that pets really aren’t in danger, as bobcats typically go after birds and rodents.

They are encouraging anyone who sees or photographs a bobcat to notify them.

The DNR is hoping to track their population growth in the south.

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