Dozens of families visited the Cosley Zoo in Wheaton to catch a glimpse of their two newest residents, Valentino and Salvatore.
“They’re adorable,” said Shauna Huck, Batavia resident. “They’re a lot smaller than I imagined.”
“I like them because they run really fast,” said 4-year-old Christopher.
The zoo specializes in domestic farm animals and Illinois native wildlife. Bobcats are one of two cat species native to our state and the only one that currently lives here.
“The bobcat actually has been reliable sightings in 99 of the 102 counties in the state so they are definitely here, but they are more elusive than raccoons and coyotes and things we see more often,” said Susan Wahlgren, Director at Cosley Zoo. “It’s really kind of a cool thing for people to come and see.”
Bobcats were very abundant in the area when European settlers first arrived, but habitat changes and unregulated harvest caused a decline and in 1977 bobcats were placed on the threatened species list.
“The bobcat has a really great comeback, conservation story with the protection it was given at the time,” said Wahlgren. “It’s also an animal that’s not often seen in the state. It’s here. It lives around here, but you really don’t see it. We’d like to teach you more about that.”
Zoo officials researched the behaviors of the animal for years making sure the exhibit was as close to their natural habitat as possible.
“For instance these guys are climbers so we gave them a much taller exhibit than we’ve had here,” said Wahlgren. “It’s 20 feet so they can actually use those natural climbing skills.”
Like all of the zoo’s animals, the bobcats are non-releasable, meaning for one reason or another they wouldn’t be able to survive on their own in the wild.
Valentino and Salvatore are brothers and came from a humane society in California. Cosley is confident they will adjust to their new environment.
“Yesterday I saw them playing with each other and rolling on their back and eating our plants, which I knew they would,” said Wahlgren.
The bobcat exhibit was funded by donations, grants, fundraising, and community support.
NCTV17's Jen Hannon Reports.