The Bobcat is an extraordinary feline. A highly adaptable wildcat of North America, the Bobcat has managed to survive in healthy numbers in a variety of habitats, consuming a diverse spectrum of prey, in both wild and inhabited regions. Classified in the Lynx genus, the Bobcat (Lynx Rufus) is considered generally a more successful hunter than the Canadian Lynx, and is perhaps the best mid-sized predator in the continent.
Twice as big as a house cat, the Bobcat weighs between fifteen to thirty pounds and is usually three to four feet long. Males are generally larger. The size among subspecies is generally subject to terrain, with Bobcats in open northern regions being bigger than their southern counterparts. The coat is usually tan colored with a number of dark stripes on it assisting the cat in its camouflage. The characteristic feature is its small tail (up to half a foot long) that gives it the ‘bobbed’ appearance – responsible for the species’ name. Unlike other lynx cats, the Bobcat tail has a white underside with a black stubby tip – distinguishing the cat. Despite being a small cat, Bobcat is quite muscular and its strong, proportionately long, hind legs enable it to generate tremendous bounds of speed, reaching up to 30mph!
With their keen senses, extreme agility and surprising strength, Bobcats make great hunters – able to take down animals three times their size. The prey animals of this opportunistic wily hunter include insects, rodents, birds, fish, squirrels, rabbits and even deer! At times it may prey even on foxes, small dogs and house cats. The usual hunting technique is to stalk the animal and allow it to come within twenty to thirty feet as the cat lays crouching in wait. The chase is then initiated and the prey is taken down with its sharp retractable claws. The cat then bites through neck, skull or chest of the animal to kill it. In case of large prey animal, Bobcat covers it with leaves or debris to return to it over the next couple of days and feed. The hunting time is usually dusk and dawn, with the cat roaming freely over several miles in its range during the night. Despite its cute appearance, the Bobcat is a very fierce animal and is capable of generating frightening growls and snarls – misleading many to believe its sounds as those of a mountain lion.
Solitary as most cats, Bobcats come together during mating. The female is the sole parent and yields three to four kittens after a gestational period of nearly two months, though not all the kittens make it to adulthood in the wild. The lifespan is nearly twelve years in the wild and over twenty years in captivity. Principal threats include parasites, hunting humans and automobiles.
Despite voracious hunting by humans over last few decades, Bobcats’ great adaptability has enabled it to survive in the wild. In fact its success as a specie can be gaged by the fact that despite the great value that has been placed on its fur in history, it is still not even concerned vulnerable as a specie by international wildlife bodies. Its unique survival instincts has even enabled it to create a niche for itself even around urban areas, becoming a constant threat, owing to its great stealth and climbing abilities, to farms and pets . The best idea would be to stay indoors to avoid Bobcats. Other alternatives include keeping a dog in the locality (Bobcats have been known to be hunted and chased up trees by dogs) and notifying the local wildlife officials. Remember it is not interspecies conflict as in big cats, when Bobcats prey upon domestic felines, its just that house cats make up part of the menu of these cunning predators in urban settings!