Summer Connect #1 – Wild Cats!

Have you ever seen a bobcat,  a mountain lion, a lynx?  These elusive creatures are capable of  slipping away into the twilight so that you wonder, did I see that? Was it really there? These cats live everywhere in North America, but  it’s hard to judge how many there are for we rarely see them.

Whether mountain lion, bobcat, lynx, ocelot margay, jaguar or jaguaraundi, the wild cats of North America are secretive and usual nocturnal (active in the darker hours).

Usually all we see of these elusive animals is a track. The pad prints that they leave behind are very similar to a dog or a coyote, but lack the impressions of claws which characterize a canine track. Look for tracks on old roads or deer trails in rocky, wild areas, and you won’t be disappointed.

In Oklahoma, we have bobcats and mountain lions – although there is an ongoing argument about whether mountain lions live here. I have seen two mountain lion, both in Osage County between Pawhuska and  Bartlesville, so I can argue that they ARE here. And I have seen bobcats and bobcat tracks around the lakes of eastern Oklahoma and the streams of western Oklahoma. It is likely that they use creeks and rivers like we use highways. That’s where their prey – whether deer, rabbit or other – will eventually come to drink.

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are found throughout the United States, from East coast to West coast and from Mexico to Canada.

The mountain lion (Felis concolor) is also known as a cougar or puma and ranges throughout the American West. Animals tagged in South Dakota have been found ranging as far away as northern Oklahoma. These large, tawny-colored cats can be as big as six feet in length. Their long, flicking tails, with black tips, are unmistakeable!

Here’s some great information about bobcats in particular from “Phantom Cats” found in the Nature Conservancy’s A Journey for All Seasons, published in 2000. “If you are able to track this cat, which is slightly larger than the domestic house cat, with adults weighing between eleven and thirty-one pounds, you may find its den. Dens are typically hidden in rock crevices, caves, hollow trees, or logs and sometimes in thickets.

“If you’re lucky, you may hear a bobct’s sharp cries during the mating season, typically in March and Aprilk, although bobcats may breed at any time of the year. Their litters are small – two or three kittens – and the offspring begin fending for themselves when they’re about nine months old.

“Often confused with the Canadian lynx, bobcats have shorter fur with more distinct spots, shorter ear tufts, and smaller, less hairy feet. They also have a longer tail – albeit bobbed – than the lynx, and they sport dark bands across the front legs. Their bobbed tail is black-tipped, with spotted or streaked fur that is grayish in winter and reddish in summer.

“Bobcats, also known as wildcats, are stealthy hunters that depend on surprise rather than an all-out chase. Although they will feed on almost any prey, including small mammals, small birds, amphibians, crayfish and even deer given the right opportunity, their favorite menu item is a cottontail rabbit.

“Found throughout North America, bobcats in the American West prefer pinyon-juniper woodlands and montane forests and usually live in the rocky, broken terrain of the foothills and canyonlands. Ever shy, they avoid farmland, unbroken grasslands, and densely populated areas.”

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