The bobcat, named for its short, bobbed tail, is the most common wildcat in North America. This mammal is a member of the cat family Felidae, which appeared approximately 1.8 million years ago. Its genus is Lynx, with a subgenus of Felis.
Its species is Lynx Rufus, with a subgenus of Felis Rufus. There has been debate over whether to classify the bobcat as part of a wider genus, or give them their own.
The Lynx genus is accepted now, in modern classification sources, and the bobcat is listed as Lynx Rufus. The bobcat is the smallest of the four species of the Lynx genus on average, with a height of 17-23 inches, and length of 25-41 inches.
It is about twice as big as a common house cat, and resembles other species of the Lynx genus, only smaller. The four types of Lynx are Eurasian, Canadian, Iberian, and Bobcat. The bobcat is common throughout Canada, continental United States, and northern Mexico. The bobcat is known to live in the Florida Everglades, and although categorized as “of least concern” on the endangerment list, much work has to be done to make sure that the habitat is, and will be suitable for the bobcat’s survival in the future.
The coat of the Lynx Rufus, or bobcat, is generally a tan color, to grayish brown, with black streaks on its body, and dark bars on its legs and short, bobbed tail. When viewing a bobcat from afar, the dark streaks may look like spots. Its ears are black-tipped and pointed, with short black tufts of hair sticking out, making its face look wide.
The bobcat is colored to camouflage, or hide in its environment, so the desert bobcats are often much lighter, as the forest bobcat’s coat is much darker. Most bobcats also have an off-white color on the belly, legs, and chin. Their eyes are yellow, with black pupils, they have sharp hearing, vision, and sense of smell, and are excellent climbers.
Bobcats are usually solitary and territorial, but small groups may hunt and travel together on occasion.
The range of a bobcat is from .02 to 126 square miles, and male’s territories may overlap, but not usually for females. Bobcats inhabit areas with deciduous and coniferous trees, or mixed woodlands, and unlike other Lynx, it does not depend on the deep forest exclusively.
It ranges from swamps and desert areas, to mountainous and agricultural areas to live. Bobcats are able to swim, but most generally avoid the water. Bobcats prey upon anything from insects and small rodents, to deer, although it prefers rabbits and hares.
The bobcat is able to go without food for long periods of time, but they eat heartily when prey is available. Bobcats will mark their territory with claw marks, or deposits of urine or feces, and will create dens in crevices, or under ledges. The bobcat is crepuscular, meaning that it keeps moving three hours before sunset, until midnight, then before dawn, until three hours after sunrise.
Each night, it moves from two to seven miles. This movement is subject to change seasonally with the difference in prey movement.
Bobcats usually live six to eight years in the wild, but some do live beyond ten years of age. This is not taking into account the longer lives of those bobcats who are raised in captivity. Mating takes place in late winter, usually February and March, and the male and female bobcat may have many partners. There are two to four kittens, once a year, with a seventy-day gestational period.
The kittens stay with the mother for one more winter, before adventuring out on their own. The bobcat remains reproductively active throughout their lives, and they begin breeding by the second summer of life. Their population has proven to be somewhat resilient, and the longevity of the reproductive activity contributes to this, along with their instinctive territorial behaviors, and protective nature.
The bobcat in the Florida Everglades faces many obstacles for survival today. Major risks to the lives of bobcats include cougars, coyotes, disease from infected prey that they have eaten, hunters, automobiles, starvation, and polluted water sources. Although not considered threatened with extinction this moment, major efforts have to be made in order to keep the bobcat and the other wildlife population safe.
The bobcat needs to keep its own genus, so that it is not grouped with others, creating a larger bobcat population count than there actually is, and the habitat requires much needed improvement, which has been delayed for over a decade in the Florida Everglades. State and Federal departments being able to coordinate efforts, will determine the future of the Everglades.
Their mutual goals are to restore the Everglades watershed, and the four million acres that are managed by these state and federal agencies. The present conservation status is that there is currently an attempt to tie the state’s cleanup efforts to the the federals aim at increasing water flow into Everglades National Park.
Other projects to be addressed are phosphorous from farm runoff, suburban construction interference, and drainage projects that do not work. It is not enough to to appreciate nature, we have to protect it for the future, and both the state and federal authorities have the ability to make the Everglades and the bobcat safe, if they work together to achieve the goals set forth.