Cat of the Month ~ January 2011The 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.
Photograph: Ohio.gov ~ Department of Natural Resources
Photograph: WikipediaWhen breeding Bobcats often have more than one mate and do not form lasting pair bonds. They breed between January and May and have a gestation period of about two months. Females may breed before they are one year old but generally do not produce a litter until they are two years old. Dens are located in caves, rock crevices, hollow logs and trees, or beneath windfall. The den may be lined with dry leaves, moss or grass, which is formed into a shallow depression by the female. The same den site may be used for several years in a row. Kittens are born with two to three per litter and their survival is (of course) linked to food abundance. When food is plentiful, many young survive; however a scarcity of food results in heavy mortality to kittens. Kittens weigh 10 to 12 ounces at birth and are born blind (their eyes remaining closed for three to eleven days. Kittens nurse for about 60 days and remain with the female until the following spring. Males do not participate in raising the young. At about four weeks of age, kittens begin to leave the den and take solid food provided by the female. Juvenile bobcats leave the females territory before she gives birth to a litter the following year. Historically bobcats have not been protected from human destruction, as they were for many years viewed as a threat to agriculture and more desirable game species. In addition, deforestation in many regions has reduced the habitat available to bobcats (and indeed to many other cat breeds and wildlife species throughout the world). Though Bobcats don’t necessarily need mature forest to thrive they do flourish in areas with thick undergrowth. A further concern in the 1970s was a large increase in the value of bobcat pelts. This raised concerns that they could be over hunted but (fortunately) at that time the bobcat was reclassified as a protected fur bearer in many regions, with more controlled hunting and trapping seasons. Conversely, housing and commercial development have decreased the amount of suitable habitat further still! Although the bobcat has been subject to extensive hunting by humans, both for sport and fur, its population has proven to be resilient and stable. This elusive predator features in Native American mythology and the folklore of European settlers. Bobcat attacks on people are virtually unknown and they are not a significant carrier of disease. Hopefully this majestic creature to behold will continue to live alongside us in their often hidden retreats.