Bobcat(Lynx rufus Schreber)
From: Saunders, D. A. 1988. Adirondack Mammals. State University of New York,College of Environmental Science and Forestry. 216pp.
Description: The short, soft fur is reddish, grayish or buffy brown on the upper parts of the body and outer areas of the legs, and white or buffy white on the inner surfaces of the legs. Dark spots are usually present over much of the body; darker bars occur on the front legs. Dark brown or black streaks mark the head and a fur ruff that extends along each surface of the face. The backs of the pointed, prominent ears are black with bold white or gray patches. The tips of the ears may bear black tufts that are less than 25 mm (1.0 in) in length. The 9-20 cm (3.5-7.9 in) tail is brown above and white below with 2-4 faint, black bars above, the last darkest. The five toes of the front feet (only four leave impressions) and four toes of the hind feet have sharp, curved, retractile claws. Total length is approximately 71-120 cm (28-47 in). Weight varies from 6.7-20.5 kg (15-45 lb); females are smaller than males.
Range and Habitat: The range of the bobcat covers southern Canada, and most of the U.S. and Mexico. The bobcat occurs throughout the Adirondacks and is most common at low to mid-elevations; it is least abundant at elevations above 762 m (2500 ft) in winter. Merriam reported the bobcat extremely rare in the Adirondacks during the mid to late 1800's, but this was no longer true by 1930. However, several sources of evidence suggest this valuable fur bearer began to decline in numbers following 1970. The factors responsible for these changes are unknown, but may relate to the expansion and decrease of the Adirondack white-tailed deer herd. Interactions with other predators such as the coyote may be important, too. The increasing numbers of bobcats in the Adirondacks may have contributed to the demise of the lynx. There is some evidence, for example, on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia that the bobcat may displace the lynx where the two species occupy the same habitat.
Shrubby fields, wooded farmland, conifer swamps; lowland conifer, mixed, and deciduous forests with clearings and rocky ledges are habitats that bobcat prefers. Dens, often containing bedding of dried vegetation occur in rock or brush piles, caves, rocky crevices, within or beneath old logs, and occasionally, abandoned buildings.
Food and Feeding Behavior: The bobcat is almost exclusively carnivorous, but may scavenge carrion, and rarely, consume fruit. Small to medium-sized mammals and birds provide about 50-75 percent of the summer diet, but only 25 percent of the winter diet, These animals include snowshoe hares, cottontails, mice, voles, moles, shrews, squirrels, muskrats, beavers, woodchucks, opossums, ruffed grouse, and at times, even porcupines. White-tailed deer make up the remainder of the diet.
The bobcat lacks large, furred feet of the lynx which enable the lynx to travel over deep snow and to hunt snowshoe hares. The bobcat, unable to rely upon hares or to reach the small mammals living beneath heavy snow cover, must concentrate winter foraging in and around deer yards. A bobcat depends upon stealth and surprise to capture prey, and because of its relatively small size and lack of speed in deep snow, is poorly adapted for killing deer. Most kills are made by leaping upon a deer that is lying down, and an attack made in this manner succeeds only if the bobcat can cling to the deer and bite the throat, thus strangling the deer.
Bobcats usually kill winter-weakened fawns, but may take healthy adults and fawns. A single kill may last as long as 12 days, with the bobcat returning to the cached carcass to feed during this time. The impact of bobcats on the Adirondack deer herd is negligible because of the small bobcat population.
An Adirondack winter is a severe test for resident bobcats, and those unable to kill deer, especially in mid to late winter, may starve. Young bobcats, inexperienced in hunting, are the most likely to succumb. Additional evidence of winter stress comes from sightings of bobcats, emboldened by hunger, appearing in Adirondack towns and villages where they may enter barns to kill poultry. One bobcat visited a bird feeder at a residence in Newcomb where it ate suet.
Activity and Movement: The bobcat is mainly nocturnal or crepuscular (active at twilight), and is active at all seasons. Although it readily climbs trees, most travel and hunting occurs on the ground, and in a single night, a bobcat may cover 4.8-11.3 km (3-7 mi) or more. Movement is by walking, trotting, bounding or leaping, a single leap traversing 2.1-3.7 m (7-12 ft).
Reproduction: The breeding season is from late February through March, occasionally later. The gestation period varies from 60-70 days. Females bear their single annual litter of 1-4 (average 2 or 3) within a den. Each kitten is blind at birth, covered with spotter fur, and weighs approximately 340 g (12 oz). The eyes open at 8-10 days, and the young nurse for 60 days, thereafter eating prey the female brings them, or when they are 3-5 months old, accompanying the female during her nightly hunts. The young disperse during autumn or winter. The females becomes sexually mature the spring following birth; males breed a year later. A captive bobcat survived 25 years. One Adirondack bobcat is known to have lived 16-17 years, the record for individuals living in the wild.
Predators: Adult bobcats have few if any predators. Great horned owls, foxes, and coyotes are some of the predators of kittens.
Social System - The bobcat is solitary and polygamous. The male does not aid in raising the young. Home ranges of Adirondack bobcats are the largest known for the species - 325 sq. km (125 sq. mi) for males and 86 sq. km (33 sq. mi) for females.The home range of a male may overlap those of other males and may include the home ranges of several females which do not overlap. Where home ranges overlap, adults do not use the same areas at the same time except during the breeding season. Densities vary with habitat type and prey abundance, but are usually less than one bobcat per 52 sq. km (20 sq. mi).
Communication - Paired anal glands and urine are likely sources of chemicals which coats droppings or are sprayed on objects. Bobcats produce "scrapes" by scratching the substrate with their hind feet after scent markings the area. Scent marking, a form of chemical communication, probably plays an important role in maintaining an exclusive area by advertising occupancy. Vocalizations, given more frequently during the breeding seasons than at other times of the year, include squeals, screams, howls, yowls, hisses and spits.
Baily, T. N. 1974. Social organizations in a bobcat population. Journal of Wildlife Management, 38:435-446.
Fox, L.B. and R.H Brocke. 1983. Ecology and demography of a northern winter stressed bobcat population (abstract only). Transactions of the N.E. Wildlife Society, 40:98.
Fuller, T.K., W.E. Berg and D.W. Kuehn. 1985. Bobcat home range size and daytime cover-type uses in north central Minnesota. Journal of Mammalogy, 66:568-571.
Fox, J.S. 1983. Relationships of diseases and parasites to the distribution and abundance of bobcat in New York. Ph.D. Dissertation, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, 94 pp.
Fox, L.B. 1990. Ecology and population biology of the bobcat, Felis rufus, in New York. Ph.D. Dissertation, State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, 184 pp.
Gustafson, K.A. 1983. Metabolism and bioenergenetics of bobcat (abstract only). Transactions of the N.E. Wildlife Society, 40:99.
Young, S.P. 1988. The bobcat of North America, its history, life habits, economic status and control, with a list of currently recognized subspecies. Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D.C., 193pp.