By Susan Benson,
CNHM Director of Education
Coming home one night, I spotted yellow eyes in the road ahead. It didn't look like the same color made by white-tailed deer, so I took even closer notice. As I approached, I was excited to see a bobcat. I knew almost immediately what it was as I made those split-second decisions - the animal was about twice the size as a domestic cat, and although I couldn't see its prominent ear tufts, I caught sight of the short 'bobbed' tail that gives these cats their name. How thrilling it was to have visual evidence of these creatures around my home!
The physical attributes of bobcats vary depending on their location. Bobcats in forested northern territories are usually bigger with darker, dense fur while further south they are smaller small and have lighter coloration. Their coat takes on a reddish coloration during the warmer months, and the markings camouflage this amazing carnivore as they hunt through thick underbrush.
Despite their smaller size, bobcats are very successful predators due to their diverse food choices and adaptability. They can take down prey that are eight times their own weight, choosing first from snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit populations. They also eat squirrels, birds, porcupines, mice, voles, shrews, birds, insects, and reptiles. Less common food sources such as deer, foxes, or skunks are used when other food is scarce. Bobcats rely on stealth, sneaking up to the prey, then using their long hind legs to produce great bursts of speed, reaching nearly thirty miles per hour. When hunting a rabbit, for example, they will often wait until a rabbit approaches within 15-35 feet, and then pounce. Such sneaky hunting tactics!
Bobcats are solitary, and mostly nocturnal, being most active at dawn and dusk. For those who search for their own bobcat discovery, bobcats prefer heavy forested areas, alder thickets or coniferous swamps. It is estimated that an average density of bobcats varies, but is about 1 bobcat every 25 square miles. Males move a distance of up to 2.6 miles per week, while females move about one mile less. They often use roads or game trails to move between food or resting places, especially in deep snow. If you have a bobcat story to share, please email the Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org, or post your own stories on the Nature Watch blog at cablemuseumnaturewatch.blogspot.com.
For over 40 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility and exhibits, the Curiosity Center and Brain Teasers 2, in Cable at 13470 County Highway M. Also find us on the web at www.cablemuseum.org to learn more about exhibits and programs.
Cable Natural History Museum
PO Box 416