Wild Files: It’s our Nature

By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

December is cat lover’s month, so let’s pay tribute to one of the wild varieties, the bobcat. 

Bobcats can be seen on the prowl across North America, from southern Canada, through the continental U.S. and into to southern Mexico. According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are 12 different sub-species of bobcats. With their ideal habitat being wooded areas, semidesert, urban and forest edges and swamplands, it’s no wonder many call the unceded territories of the Secwépemc and Ktunaxa Peoples and the land chosen as home by the Métis Peoples of B.C. home. Out of all its subspecies, the bobcat we see roaming throughout the Columbia Valley is also known as lynx rufus or a red lynx. While sharing the lynx’s name, they are actually their cat cousin and considered the smallest of that family.

Their name, bobcat, came about from its stubby, or rather, bobbed ebony-tipped tail. That’s not the only feature that makes these felines stand out. Their forelegs are also distinctively marked with black bars. From tip to tail, bobcats are 125 cm. Males can weigh up to 18 kg while females are a little lighter at 15 kg. 

Along came a clutter

All animal groups have unique names and the bobcat is no exception. A group of bobcats goes by a few names including a clutter, clowder, or pounce. They are most known to pounce at dusk or dawn which is why they are called crepuscular hunters, but can also be seen active throughout the day. When hunting to feed their hunger, they prey on rabbits, hares, mice, squirrels, insects, and birds, while the real go-getters may go after a deer. While many animals make a meal for them, they do the same for their predator – coyotes. Either way they’ll give their prey and predators a run for their money as they reach speeds of 49 km per hour and look as if they are bobbing when doing so. Much like their domestic counterparts, bobcats are territorial and largely solitary. Like some bad house cats, they mark their territories with feces, urine, or markings from their retractable claws. They don’t just have one den to sprawl out in shelter but are known to have many wherever their territory may be. 

The Queen

Any cat owner knows that a female cat is the queen of their castle. This is no exception for bobcats, as females are referred to as queens while male bobcats are called toms. A tom is the only dad that can call his kid an embarrassment and get away with it, as bobcat young are referred to as kittens but as they get older are referred to as ’embarrassments’ or kindle. Father bobcats don’t make much of an impact on their young as it’s the mothers that (teach) their young the art of preying. By 11 months, these kittens are kicked out of their mama’s territory to make it on their own.  Much like our pet cats in heat, bobcats prefer a brief encounter over a purr-fect partner and mating normally happens in the spring. The bobcat mating call is anything but music to the human ear and has been reported as sounding like the scream of a woman in agony. Fun fact: bobcats and domesticated cats have been known to pussyfoot around, but it will not result in offspring.

Fur real

The greed for the bobcat’s unique fur has seen some populations plummet during the early 20th century. While the Mexican bobcat is considered endangered, it is still not yet registered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list. Bobcats, while under trade restrictions through the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, are still allowed to be hunted in Mexico, 38 U.S. states and seven Canadian provinces, including B.C. Thousands of toms and queens are harvested for their fur each year.

Frisky felines

Like many animals in Indigenous culture, the bobcat symbolizes many things including self-reliance, perception, beauty, affection, moxie and friskiness. As a spirit animal, they represent patience and tenacity.