The Rainforest Bobcat

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The bobcat, a wildcat, is about twice the size of a domestic cat, easily recognizable by its tufted ears, bobbed tail and thick ruff. An adult of the species averages 11 to 30 pounds and stands about 1 to 2 feet at the shoulder, males slightly larger than females. The most abundant wildcat in North America, the bobcat is adaptable to diverse habitats, including temperate rainforests.

Subspecies

The widely distributed bobcat (Lynx rufus) displays regional variations in appearance and so is divided into 12 subspecies. Lynx rufus fasciatus inhabits the temperate rainforest of North America; in the winter it is gray, in the summer reddish-brown. Both of these seasonal coats are generally darker than those of other subspecies that inhabit arid or more southerly regions, which get more sun. This species is also more distinctively marked, with a white spot on its black ears and black stripes near its tail.

Habitat

The Pacific Coastal Temperate Rainforest of North America is a wet and cool corridor that runs from Prince William Sound in Alaska south through British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Northern California. Marine air meets coastal mountains, producing large amounts of rainfall -- more than 100 days of rain annually. Tree species are mainly coniferous, including spruce, hemlock, fir and redwoods. Like other subspecies, they usually have several dens: a main den, often located in a hollow log or fallen tree, and several shelter dens throughout the territory such as stumps or brush piles. Bobcats have plenty to eat in this biologically rich environment.

Diet

The bobcat, a skilled predator, finds plenty to eat in the temperate rainforest. The PCTR is home to approximately 350 bird and mammal species and 48 species of amphibians and reptiles. Bobcats feed on hares, beavers, squirrels, moles, mice, reptiles, birds and even deer. Bobcats hunt by silently stalking prey and pouncing quickly. They sometimes cover remains with grass or leaves, especially larger prey, returning to feed until it is consumed.

Status

First noted in the Pacific Northwest by Lewis and Clark, bobcats are an adaptable species that number around 1 million in the wild. While some populations in Midwestern and Eastern states became decimated in the 1900s due to demand for their fur, in the 1970s several states instituted legal protection, allowing those numbers to rebound. Bobcats are protected from hunting and trapping throughout most of their range, although some states allow human predation during specific times of the year.

Life Cycle

Bobcats typically live for 6 to 8 years in the wild. They are solitary except for mating season, February and March. After a gestation of 60 to 70 days, litters are born in April or May. Average litter size is two to four, but can be as many as six or seven. Kittens open their eyes at 10 days, are weaned around 2 months and stay with their mother for about a year as she teaches them to hunt. Males usually breed in their second year; females breed in their first or second.

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Author

Leslie Darling has been a writer since 2003, writing regularly for "Mississippi Magazine" and "South Mississippi Living," specializing in food and wine, animals and pets, and all things Southern. She is a graduate of the University of New Orleans.