Very few and far between do we admit Bobcats to the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter in Newport because they are extremely elusive, secretive and avoid all human contact. Although it is a rarity to see a bobcat in Eastern North Carolina, they are here in the coastal plains, as well as throughout the state. They are the only wild cat found in North Carolina. Every time a Bobcat has been admitted to the shelter over the years (the instances can be counted on one hand), a run in with a vehicle during the dead of night has been the cause of injury. The last Bobcat admitted suffered a broken leg when struck by a pickup truck on a back road in a low land area of our coast. Fortunately, the compassionate driver, who had heavy work gloves in his cab, managed amid hissing, growling, biting, scratching and squirming, to put him in his truck bed under a secured tarp and transport the injured cat to our shelter. A Bobcat isn’t a relatively large animal, but it is a fierce fighter. His stay in intensive care was quite the challenge. Isolation in a huge metal enclosure was the only way to go for this beautiful, solitary animal to keep him and everybody else safe. Despite looking like your cat, Fluffy, who curls up on your lap while you watch television, this fur ball, who is twice as big as your chubbiest domestic house cat, is not okay with being handled by humans, so safety issues are paramount when treating a Bobcat.
The Bobcat gets its name from the short tail it sports which is usually less than 5 inches. Its light brown to reddish brown fur is extremely gorgeous, dense and soft. Their round face is topped with pointed, tufted ears, and the Bobcat’s hind legs are longer than its front legs, which gives them that “Cheetah” like bobbing run when chasing down prey. Their paws have four toes each with retractable, razor sharp claws. They have four large and very sharp canine teeth and behind the canines, more sharp cutting teeth. They have forward facing yellow eyes with black elongated pupils. Like all cats, they use their whiskers like fingertips and can feel prey in complete darkness. Bobcats are gifted runners, climbers and swimmers. They are excellent hunters with superior vision, hearing and a good sense of smell. Their night vision is exceptional. You might be thinking, with all that going on, how do they get hit by cars? It’s a timing thing.
Nicknames abound for the Bobcat to include “ol’ spitfire,” “lightning,” “woods ghost” and “tiger cat” which all speak to their stealth abilities as focused and ferocious hunters. Bobcats are carnivores that favor rabbits, rodents, raccoons, opossums, birds and snakes for their dining pleasure, although they have been known, although rare, to take down an adult deer and occasionally farm animals, too. They can be active during the day but prefer to hunt at night. They will also roll in, chew on and ingest fresh vegetation. Although Bobcats are solitary, males will seek out a mate when they sexually mature, which is between one and two years of age. Mating takes place usually in late winter and two to four kittens will be born in the May timeframe. Kittens are furred but blind at birth. Their eyes open in 3 – 10 days. By 4 weeks they start exploring beyond the den and by 7-8 weeks of age, they are weaned. Life expectancy for males is 3-4 years and 4-5 years for females. Ten year longevity is the highest to be recorded for a Bobcat in the wild. In captivity, they may live more than 30 years.
Although the Bobcat prefers woodlands, it has adapted well to our coastal region. Due to habitat restoration occurring throughout our state, Bobcat populations have grown over the past 50 years. Bobcats are fascinating wildlife, and if you have the opportunity to see a Bobcat in the wild, consider it an honor and feel privileged to be among the few that ever has or ever will!
Author of, “Save Them All“