Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PA Wildlife: Bobcat

Imagine our surprise at seeing a bobcat when looking at some webcam photos my friend took. After all, how many bobcat have you seen? The Pennsylvania Game Commission says probably not many because of their shyness, ability to hide, and nocturnal habits. In 2000, the estimated population of bobcat in Pennsylvania was 3,500.

Bobcats in our state average 15 to 20 pounds, have gray-brown fur with dark spots and stripes. Their lips, chin, front of neck, as well as, their belly is white. Including their six-inch tail, they average 36 inches in length, just like the fisher.

What sets them apart from most other cats is their extra fur that extends down from their jowls. The other distinguishing characteristic is their longer back legs which give them a different gait.

Like the fisher, bobcats attack and eat porcupines. They also eat all kinds of small animals and carrion. They have little effect on Pennsylvania’s deer herd because they only eat the crippled or sick deer.

Some bobcats live up to 14 years in the wild and inhabit mostly mountains, isolated forests, and swamps. They seem to prosper best near clear cut forests because of the increase in small mammals that lumbering brings to the newly cut area.

Many bobcats used to roam this region, but with more mature trees and populated areas they declined. Beginning in 1970, the laws changed to protect them and subsequently allowed them to increase. In 2000, the Game Commission made the decision to again allow limited hunting of them.

Reference for writing this was Chuck Fergus’s Wildlife Note #3 on “Bobcats” published by the PA Game Commission online.

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