By MDC | July 1, 2022
From Missouri Conservationist: July 2022

Got a question for Ask MDC? Send it to or call 573-522-4115, ext. 3848.

Q: A bobcat came into my yard. It’s the first I’ve seen. Is the population expanding in Missouri?

Despite a reduction in preferred habitat (through hardwood forest clearing and draining of lowlands), Missouri’s bobcat population seems to be stable. Currently, Missouri bobcats can be found statewide, with an estimated one bobcat per 6 square miles.

Originally, these cats’ range was from southern Canada, throughout the United States and most of Mexico. However, they were extirpated from much of the central United States by 1900 due to habitat loss resulting from intensive agriculture and persecution because of real or perceived attacks on livestock.

Bobcat populations remain steady today, in part because of their reclusive nature. When rabbits, moles, voles, and squirrels are in abundance, bobcats can inhabit many different areas without incident, including areas near human populations. These felines are shy, but can tolerate the increased noises associated with human developments.

Active both during the night and day, these felines mark their territories with scat, but don’t socialize much. Within their ranges, they can travel between 3 and 7 miles nightly. Mating begins in December and litters of two to three kittens are usually born in May and June. Weaning occurs after two months, and young stay with the female until fall or later.

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Q: Recently I noticed monarch caterpillars feeding on the milkweed plants in my yard. But now they’re all gone. I haven’t seen one chrysalis. What happened to them?

It’s possible they’re nearby. Monarch caterpillars will go as far as 30 feet away from the milkweed plants to make their chrysalides, which can be hard to see when they blend into vegetation or other hidden places.

Despite the milkweed making the caterpillars unpalatable, quite a lot of predation from birds, wasps, and other insects such as tachinid flies still occurs. Some studies suggest fewer than 6 percent of caterpillars survive to the last instar stage and make it to a chrysalis.

If you fear this may have happened, examine where the caterpillars were feeding on the milkweed leaves. Tachinid flies, once hatched, will leave the caterpillar’s dried outer skin. If you see these husks, it’s possible the caterpillars were predated.

Don’t lose hope. It’s only July and monarch opportunities still exist. The fall migration through Missouri goes from mid-August through October, so there is still time for Missouri’s milkweeds to help the generation of monarchs headed to Mexico this fall.

Planting milkweeds, and protecting them, is a wonderful way to help monarchs, whose populations have fallen precipitously in recent years. Conservationists are strong proponents of using native plants because they provide the largest bulk of the food and nourishment our native wildlife species need to survive. For additional guidance, visit

Q: What species fly nightly under our dawn-to-dusk light searching for bugs?

According to MDC’s bat ecologist, you likely are seeing bats. Urban bats are often seen foraging under light sources because of the insect density. The species would most likely be big brown bats, but other species like eastern red bats, evening bats, and little brown bats are possible.

Some insectivorous birds also are attracted to artificial light. Nighthawks, for example, hunt on the wing at dawn and dusk, snatching up aerial insects, and barn swallows forage on flying insects lower to the ground. Purple martins go to bed at dusk and rarely forage past sunset.


This Issue's Staff

Magazine Manager - Stephanie Thurber
Editor - Angie Daly Morfeld
Associate Editor - Larry Archer
Photography Editor - Cliff White
Staff Writer - Kristie Hilgedick
Staff Writer - Joe Jerek
Staff Writer – Dianne Van Dien
Designer - Shawn Carey
Designer - Marci Porter
Photographer - Noppadol Paothong
Photographer - David Stonner
Circulation Manager - Laura Scheuler