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THE BOBCAT GENERAL DESCRIPTION The bobcat _Felis rufus_ is a

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					                                     THE BOBCAT

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: The bobcat (Felis rufus) is a moderate-sized member of the
cat family. The name is appropriate because they sport a stubby tail only 4 or 5 inches
long. Bobcats range in length from 30 to 50 inches, stand about 2 feet high and weigh
from 15 to 30 pounds. Large tufts of fur on the cheeks are characteristic of the species.
The fur is reddish-brown above and a whitish below, and black spots or streaks are
throughout the coat. Bobcats live as long as 10 to 12 years in the wild. Eerie screams are
often emitted by bobcats during the night.

FOOD HABITS: Many scientific studies have documented that bobcats are entirely
carnivorous. Their preferred prey are rabbits, but they also feed on rats, mice, moles and
squirrels. Some studies have reported that small deer are occasionally taken by bobcats.
Carcasses of kills too large to move, such as small deer may be cached or hidden for latter
meals.

FAMILY LIFE: Bobcats are territorial and generally solitary animals with limited social
life. Territorial scent-marking with urine and scats, especially by males, has been reported.
Mating generally occurs in early spring during February and March, and the young are
born after a 62-day gestation period. An average litter of three kittens is born in April or
May. The female may move the kittens to several different dens during the growth period.
Males do not assist in raising the young. The young generally remain with the female until
they reach one year of age. At that time they learn predatory skills necessary for survival.
After one year, the young disperse, and the female will enter another reproductive season.
Some adults have shown that kitten survival is associated with prey abundance, with more
young surviving during the years of higher rabbit populations.

HABITAT: Typical bobcat habitat is characteristic as remote, well forested areas of rugged
topography with cliffs, bluffs or rocky outcrops. Thu unglaciated region of south central
Indiana seems to provide the best bobcat habitat in the Hoosier state. Limestone caves
found in this region, as well as rocky outcrops, hollow trees and logs could be used as
denning sites. Bottomland hardwood forests along river systems bounded by large bluffs
and timbered slopes are also considered good bobcat habitat.

HABITS: Bobcats are a far-ranging mammal, having home ranges as large as 20 square
miles They are primarily nocturnal, hunting and moving during early morning and late
evening hours. Their secretive, nocturnal behavior and preference for remote areas make
interactions between humans and bobcats relatively rare. Bobcats are agile and
accomplished climbers. They can dart around rock ledges in pursuit of prey or can scurry
up trees to escape from dogs.

STATUS AND DISTRIBUTION: Bobcats once ranged throughout Indiana before
settlement of the Hoosier state. Loss of habitat because of forest clearing and new
settlements in remote areas probably caused the drastic population decline. As a result, the
bobcat was classified as endangered in 1969, providing full protection for this rare species.
Since 1970, there have been only three confirmed reports of bobcats in Indiana (see
figure). Many bobcat reports are actually a feral cat sighting, without physical evidence,
photos or expert confirmation, most reports are viewed with skepticism. Bobcats are now
believed to be restricted to remote, forested regions of south central Indiana.
        In neighboring Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky the bobcat is also considered a rare
species. Bobcats are more common in Michigan, where they are a game species trapped
for their valuable fur.
LIMITING FACTORS: Man is the bobcat's worst enemy. Forested areas needed by the
bobcat for survival have been cleared. Bobcats have been needlessly destroyed because of
the misconception that they are terrible predators. They are, in fact, a beneficial predator,
preying heavily on rats and mice. Because bobcats are endangered in Indiana, they are
closely monitored by the Division of Fish and Wildlife's Non-game and Endangered
Wildlife Program. Perhaps with greater public appreciation and understanding of this
unique species, bobcats can continue their existence in the Hoosier state.

				
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posted:7/6/2011
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