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Living Sanibel: Bobcats

By Staff | Oct 28, 2011
Bobcat Kitten
Male Bobcat

An estimated 700,000 to 1.5 million bobcats live in North America. In the far north the bobcat is replaced by the slightly larger Canadian lynx, which has longer legs, huge padded feet, and denser fur, all of which are helpful for surviving in the often snow-covered boreal forests of northern Canada. The male bobcat commonly grows to 30 pounds; the largest ever recorded in the wild was 48.9 pounds. The bobcat is a game animal in Florida, trapped and hunted for its fine-quality fur.

Unlike many of the world’s cats, the bobcat population is not in trouble. In a few states, such as Ohio, Indiana, and New Jersey, the bobcat is considered endangered, but for the most part this feline is thriving. Because of protections now in place across North America, the bobcat is steadily returning to its entire original range.

Southwest Florida has a healthy bobcat population. Although most sightings occur at dawn and dusk, the bobcat can sometimes be spotted midday. Its fur pattern varies by region; there have even been 10 confirmed cases of melanistic (black) bobcats in Florida. Like most wild cats, the bobcat is a carnivore and operates as an adept ambush predator. It is capable of jumping yards into the air, sometimes plucking waterfowl right out of the sky in flight. During lean times it has been known to take down white-tailed deer weighing eight times more than does the bobcat. It kills innumerable rats, mice, raccoons, opossums, armadillos, birds, snakes, feral and domestic cats, and just about anything else that can supply the daily calories it requires for survival.

Only a handful of predators feed upon the bobcat. While bobcat kittens may be taken by coyotes, male bobcats, raccoons, and fox, adults need only to fear wolves, panthers, and large alligators. The bobcat has been known to attack people, but in most cases it involves a mother attempting to protect her litter. There has never been a recorded fatal bobcat attack in North America.

It breeds year-round, but tends to favor April through September. On average it has one litter per year, with one to six kittens per litter. The bobcat is not capable of being domesticated. It will readily injure itself if caged and will bite and scratch its handlers without warning.