Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

Bobcats

 

The Bobcats are a very adaptable animal that appears to be living in the urban environment due to human expansion; they are very reclusive and hardly ever seen. The adult male bobcats weigh 20 to 30 pounds and average 3 feet in length. The females are considerably smaller and may weigh less than a large house cat. Bobcats can be various shades of buff and brown, with dark brown or black stripes and spots on some parts of the body. The tip of the tail and the backs of the ears are black. They have short ear tufts, and ruffs of hair on the side of the head, giving the appearance of sideburns.

Bobcats home on cliffs, outcroppings, and ledges are important to bobcats for shelter, raising young and resting sites. Large brush or log piles and hollow trees or logs are used in wooded areas. Finding bobcats in open fields, meadows and agricultural areas is not uncommon, provided enough brushy or timbered areas for escape cover is nearby. Bobcats occur less frequently in areas of deep winter snow. Unlike lynx, bobcats have relatively small feet and snow greatly reduces their mobility and ability to catch prey. The home range size of bobcats in varies from 2.5 to six square miles for adult males, about half that for adult females.

Bobcats are opportunistic and will prey upon a wide variety of animals. Their food sources include mice, voles, rabbits, gophers, mountain beaver, yellow bellied marmots, fawns; also insects, reptiles, birds, and carrion. Domestic animals occasionally taken include house cats, poultry, small pigs, and lambs. Bobcats hunt primarily by sight and sound, which means they spend much of their time sitting or crouching, watching, and listening. Once they've located prey, they stalk within range of a quick dash and then pounce. A bobcat will cover the remains of a large kill with debris such as snow, grass, or leaves. The bobcat will revisit a carcass until most of it is consumed.

Bobcats are solitary animals. Males and females only associate for the brief time required for courtship and mating. A litter of about 3 kittens is born between April and July in dens found in caves, rock crevices, or hollow logs or trees. The den is carefully lined with dry leaves, moss, or grass formed into a shallow depression. Young bobcats disperse when they are about 8 months old. Bobcats are known to live up to 12 years in the wild, but the average life expectancy is probably closer to 3-4 years.

In captivity, they may live 25 years. Few predators other than cougars and humans are able to kill an adult bobcat. Adult bobcats may receive fatal or debilitating injuries from prey animals. Young bobcats are killed by eagles, great horned owls, coyotes, foxes, bears, and adult male bobcats.

Because of their elusive nature and caution around humans, bobcats are seldom seen. In areas occupied by humans, these cats typically limit their activity to night hours. (In dim light, bobcats see up to six times better than humans.) In undisturbed areas, they can be active at dawn or dusk if prey is active at that time. However, bobcats may be active during any time of day. Bobcats travel in predictable patterns along logging roads, railways, and trails made by other animals to move between resting areas, food sources, or hunting areas.

Evidence of a bobcat's presence may include tracks in snow or mud, droppings, feeding areas, and claw marks on tree trunks. The bobcat track is easily distinguished with a round shape, four toes and no claws evident. It is generally twice the size of a domestic cat's print and loosely resembles that of a coyote or dog but is more rounded. At greater speeds the toes of the front foot spread easier than that of the hind one which has a smaller ball pad. Fine muddy silt leaves the clearest tracks. Bobcats generally cover their droppings with loose soil, snow, leaves or other material. When visible, their droppings typically resemble those of most species in the dog and cat families. A bobcat will eat the carcass of a large mammal, like a cougar, it will cover the carcass remains and frequently return to feed on it. Being smaller than a cougar, a bobcat only reaches out 15 inches to rake up debris to cover the food cache. These marks, and the bobcat's much smaller tracks, help distinguish between bobcat and cougar caches.

Like house cats scratching furniture, bobcats mark their territory boundaries by leaving claw marks on trees, stumps, and occasionally fence posts. Bobcat claw marks are normally 2 to 3 feet above the ground; domestic cat scratching occurs at a height of about 1-1/2 to 2 feet.

Bobcats rarely vocalize, although they often yowl and hiss during the mating season, especially when competing males have intentions toward the same receptive female. Such wails have been likened to a child crying, a woman's scream, and the screeching of someone in terrible pain.

Bobcats are not often responsible for killing domestic animals, but occasionally are responsible for losses of poultry, lambs, small goats, pigs, and house cats, bobcats tend to use wild animals as prey items. Once a bobcat causes damage for the first time, it gets easier for the animal to do it again. Remember predators follow prey. You must prevent the buildup of feeder foods under bird feeders. Bobcats are attracted to the many birds and rodents that come to feeders. Feed dogs and cats indoors and clean up after them. If you must feed outside, do so in the morning or midday, and pick up food and water bowls, as well as leftovers and spilled food as soon as pets have finished eating. Water, pet food and droppings attract small mammals that, in turn, attract bobcats. +Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially from dusk to dawn. Left outside at night, small dogs and cats may become prey for bobcats (which have attacked cocker-spaniel-size dogs). Enclose poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys) in a secure outdoor pen and house. Bobcats will eat poultry if they can get to them.

There are other killers of poultry to include coyotes, foxes, skunks, raccoons, feral cats, dogs, opossums, weasels, hawks, and large owls.

Ron & Angie VanHerwyn, Kritter kids • Email kritterkids@yahoo.com

Px# 334-301-5131 or 334-301-5128

Facebook - Ron's kritter kids (Wildlife education)

 

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