| Dec 04, 2008

Outdoors - The Bobcat

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Outdoors in the LandO'Lakes - December 4, 2008 The Bobcat Outdoors in the Land O'Lakesby Lorraine Julien

Bobcats (Lynx Rufus) have occurred in Ontario since the late 1940s and their range has not changed appreciably since then other than to gradually expand northward in Canada, generally, as boreal forests become fragmented by farms, settlement and logging.

There are a few individuals scattered in Eastern Ontario mainly between Kingston and Pembroke. The Bobcat is smaller than its close relative, the Canadian Lynx, but about twice the size of a house cat. It has shorter ear tufts, smaller feet and shorter hind legs than a Lynx; otherwise, they look very similar. The Bobcat, named for its short tail (about 5”) is a medium-sized cat with a ruff of fur edging the sides of its face. The tail is black on top and pale underneath whereas the Lynx tail is completely black. The largest recorded weight for a male Bobcat is 17.6kg. although the average weight can range from 16 to 30lb. Females average about 20lb. Mother Nature provides excellent camouflage for Bobcats as their fur is dappled with dark spots on a light grey to reddish brown background.

Bobcats are very adaptable and their behaviour is similar to that of house cats. They are often found on the edge of towns though their trails show a preference for being near cover, except in the winter when prey may not be plentiful and more hours need to be spent hunting. The playful nature of Bobcats is very evident as they will play with feathers, blades of grass or anything else that can be tossed in the air and then caught. They are a solitary and mostly nocturnal animal. Scent markings, urine, feces and claw marks are used to maintain their social structure and territorial boundaries. Bobcats usually cover their feces when hunting but leave them exposed near their dens. Prey that is not immediately eaten is cached away by covering with material such as leaves and earth.

Using my tracking books, in years past, I am sure I’ve seen Bobcat tracks – certainly they were cat tracks and too large for a house cat. Tracks are about 2” square with four toes. As with all cats, the claws are retracted except when climbing or jumping.

Like members of the domestic cat family, these wild cats do not like deep snow but prefer to follow trails. As with most other wildlife, Bobcat numbers depend on the abundance of their food supply. Their favourite food is rabbit but they are not fussy eaters and will eat a variety of small animals, fish, birds and insects; in other words – virtually anything that moves! It’s hard to believe but they’ve also been known to kill deer, although only on rare occasions. Usually, the deer would have to be resting and lying down before the Bobcat could jump on its back and bite its neck or the underside of the throat. Obviously, this would provide a lot of food so most of the carcass is buried for future dining.

Besides food, other key factors in habitat selection are the availability of protection from severe weather, the availability of rest areas (rock piles, tall trees, hollow logs) and freedom from human intrusion. During really harsh winters, Bobcats need underground dens to survive.

The Bobcat has few predators other than humans, and, although it has been hunted fairly extensively, both for sport and fur, its population has remained fairly constant. This elusive animal has been held in awe and linked in North American mythology with its relative, the Lynx and also the Coyote. Both First Nations people and European settlers admired the cat for its hunting prowess, ferocity, cunning and grace.

Please feel free to report any observations to Lorraine Julien This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Steve Blight at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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