Cat of the Month ~ January 2011
The bobcat (Lynx Rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family. With twelve recognized subspecies, its habitat ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including much of the continental United States. An adaptable and thriving predator that inhabits mixed deciduous-coniferous and hardwood forests it has a preference for brushy and rocky areas, as well as semi-desert, urban boundaries, and swampland.
A healthy bobcat is strong-bodied, slender and sturdy. It's a medium-sized feline, with a short, "bobbed" tail (around six inches in length), a prominent face ruff and tufts of black hair on its pointed ears. The sides and flanks are usually yellowish-brown or reddish-brown with distinct or faint black spots. Also it has distinctive black bars on its forelegs. The back is often tawny-coloured with a dark mid-dorsal line. The tail may have one to several indistinct dark bands and a tip that is black on top but which is white on the underside. The coat varies from light ruddy brown through grey to again white on the underbelly (like the tail). With whiskered face and black long-tufted ears the bobcat resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is smaller than the Canadian Lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but can grow from four to eight times the size of an average domestic cat, reaching a hefty 40 pounds in weigh and 37 inches long!
The bobcats preferred prey list is extensive, including rabbits, hares, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles and other small rodents and birds. It will also hunt anything from insects and reptiles to deer and pronghorn antelope (though usually a weak or injured animal will be chosen). A very strong and aggressive hunter the bobcat may also take small domestic goats or lambs, poultry, small pigs, sheep and house cats, as well as stealing from traps set by humans. It has also been known to eat vegetation, but this is rare. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season, and abundance (of course).
Bobcats are most active just after dusk and before dawn, when they will inevitably begin the hunt for food. They are secretive, solitary and seldom observed, tending to hunt and travel in areas of thick cover. Bobcats rely on their keen eyesight and hearing (and a tenacious patience) for locating and stalking enemies and prey. Following a kill bobcats may cache, or cover, the body of their prey with leaves, grass or snow. This is a common trait in other feline species that are known to store their kills for future consumption when food is sparse.