Bobcat

This week for Flora and Fauna Friday we have an elusive feline that’s long on legs and short on tails, the Bobcat (Lynx rufus).

The Bobcat is a small feline native to practically all of the lower 48 states and found throughout South Carolina. They are adapted to a wide-range of habitats and can be spotted skulking almost anywhere, but are most prolific here in the coastal plain. They look a fair bit like a domestic cat at a glance but with some key physical differences. Bobcats are tall and lanky with long legs and a long body. They stand about a foot-and-a-half at the shoulder and are roughly two-foot long. They have big feet, jowls with long fur, black tufts of hair at the tips of their ears, and of course, their namesake bobbed tail. Their fur is often grayish and reddish browns with thin black stripes on the face, small black dots along the legs and body, black bars on the tail, and a white belly. They also have white spots on the backs of their ears, white beneath their eyes, and a white underside to their tail.

As common as Bobcats are, they are a hard critter to lay eyes on, owing to their primarily nocturnal nature, preference for densely vegetated hunting grounds, and acute senses. Bobcats, like all cats, are predators through and through. They are stalkers, tracking prey with their sharp eyesight and keen hearing before pouncing on them at close range. Bobcats primarily feed themselves on a diet of rodents and rabbits but are surprisingly capable hunters who, when afforded the opportunity, can easily take down wading birds, raccoons, large fish, opossums, wild turkeys, and even deer fawns. Bobcats have been very numerous across the state in recent decades as they’ve benefited greatly from historic agricultural practices and the rapidly recovering White-tailed Deer and Wild Turkey populations. Yet now, they are starting to face competition in many locales from the semi-recent range expansion of Coyotes into the Palmetto State. However, Bobcats historically shared the Southeast with the native Red Wolf, which is now nearly extinct. So, I reckon they shouldn’t have too difficult a time adjusting to the Red Wolf niche now being filled by wily Coyotes.

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