110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Apr 21, 2013 - 12:03:23pm
A beautiful male bobcat walked quickly across the road in front of my car in February 2012 as I slowly drove to the parking lot at Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. What a nice surprise at 8 a.m.! I had occasionally seen bobcat paw prints on the hiking path, but this was the first time I actually saw a bobcat.
A friend in DeLeon Springs emailed me that she saw one in her backyard recently and watched it eat a squirrel. So pet owners, here's another good reason to keep your pet on a leash or in your sight anytime it is outdoors; otherwise it could become a bobcat's meal.
Bobcats are solitary, territorial mammals that hunt by sight and primarily eat squirrels, rabbits, rats, opossums, small raccoons and birds. These fierce hunters can pounce 10 feet to catch their prey.
Male bobcats are about 23 inches tall and 41 inches long, and weigh about 28 pounds. The female is about the same, but smaller: 17 inches tall, 25 inches long, and 16 pounds.
Bobcats have long legs and large paws, and their short mottled fur is in shades of beige and brown, spotted or lined with brown or black markings that camouflage perfectly with shadows and forest scenery. These elusive, nocturnal cats live about 12 years.
At 1 year old, the female breeds in late winter or early spring. Two to three kittens are born after a 50- to 60-day gestation period. They are weaned at 2 months and taught to hunt by both parents. How interesting to learn that hunting is not instinctive, but must be taught!
At 11 months, the young bobcats are evicted from their mother's territory! Females like a 5-square-mile area, but the adventuresome males prefer 20 square miles to call their own.
Bobcats have a natural fear of people unless threatened. Never feed one, and keep your garbage secure. After all, we are in their territory with all the inviting, lush wooded areas in Central Florida and other places. They are at home in deep forests, swamps and hammock land throughout most of the U.S. and Canada, living in thick patches of saw palmetto (here in Florida), dense shrub thickets, brush piles, rock shelters or hollow logs.
Obviously these common wildcats are named after their short bobbed tail. That tail always looks to me like the bobcat was in a fight and lost part of a long tail, but this is just how nature made the animal.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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