by Gerry Bishop
In many parts of the world, wild cats are having a tough time surviving. But here in North America, there's one kind—the bobcat—that is doing just fine.
The bobcat got its name because of its stubby tail. (To "bob" means to cut something short.) But a better name might be wondercat!
That's because bobcats are super survivors. One way or another, they manage to find enough food, shelter, and places to raise their young wherever they are.
But even more impressive is this: Bobcats have the right stuff for surviving in places where people have taken over. More and more bobcats are making themselves at home in towns and suburbs. They find shelter in hollow logs, rocky dens, or even thick, tangled bushes. And they've learned to prey on smaller animals that thrive in such places.
At dawn and dusk, bobcats go hunting. Check out the alert face on the one in the photo at above left. Super-sharp eyes watch for any movement. Keen ears listen for the slightest sound. And a sensitive nose sniffs for the faintest scent.
Rabbits and hares are at the top of the menu for most bobcats. But these adaptable hunters will go for almost anything that happens to be plentiful. Rodents? Fish? Insects? Birds? Any would make a fine feast.
In the photo above right a young bobcat has caught a bird. And in the photos above, a bobcat has surprised a careless muskrat out in the open. It flips its prey over, makes a killing bite, and then carries its catch back to its den.
During most of the year, bobcats are loners. But in late winter or early spring, it's the perfect time for them to find mates.
When a male and female meet, they may take some time to get to know each other. They may play a game of ambush-and-chase, and they may rub and bump against each other (photo at top left). After mating, each cat goes its own way.
But the female won't be alone for long. After about two months, she finds a nice sheltered hideaway and settles down to give birth.
A mother bobcat usually has two to four kittens. And like all other cats, newborn bobcats are blind and helpless at first. But after a few weeks, the kittens are up and about, crawling all over then den—or on Mom while she tries to sleep.
Soon the kittens may venture outside the den with Mom—even during late-spring snow flurries. But it will be fall before they're ready to go off on their own. Each will be part of a new generation of wondercats: the live-everywhere, eat-anything, can-do kitties!