Bobkitten or regular kitten? While both look cute nibbling on your finger, one might actually eat that finger. This is the latest litter born in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Pictured here are B326 and B327. Two bobcat kittens just born in the wild in the Simi Hills, north of Los Angeles. Their mum wears a GPS collar so the rangers and researchers of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area can track her movements, eventually leading them to her den and the kittens. Aww.
National Park Service biologists are conducting their longest-ever study of bobcats in this region, beginning in 1996, they have captured and tagged over 300 local animals. During that time, they have observed that the cats stick mostly to wild areas, living off prey like the area's abundant population of rabbits, gophers, squirrels and mice. If they do pass through a neighbourhood, it's typically en-route to another wilderness area.
Its their consumption of rodents that has led them into some small conflict with mankind. Bobcats are strictly carnivores and may be attracted to easy pickings of poisoned rodents. While those poisons may not kill the bobcats directly, they can weaken their defences against disease.
Here you can see the bobkitten's distinctive black-tipped, ruffed ears with white patches. These little guys are too small for a radio collar, so they're being fitted with ear tags that will enable them to be identified on trail cameras while they stay with their GPS-collared mum.
Beginning in 2001, problematic mange infections were observed in the animals. Caused by microscopic mites taking up residence in the cat's skin, mange leads to infection, which leads to death. NPS saw 30 of its collared bobcats die in a 10-year period. Additional population data is gathered by collecting bobcat scat; the amount of scat gathered fell 70 per cent.
"10 years after the start of the epidemic, bobcat numbers seem to be on the uptick, especially in areas where local populations had essentially been wiped out. Researchers continue to search for the underlying cause of the correlation between exposure to anti-coagulant rodenticides and severe mange.
As part of the study, biologists capture and sedate the bobcats, affix radio collars, record measurements and take blood and tissue samples for analysis. Researchers also minimise the potential for stress or injury to animals through the use of remote cameras and scat surveys. Most of the 300 bobcats in the study were captured in the communities of Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village and Agoura Hills."
Bobcats live across North America, growing in size up to 18kg. Their distinctive spotted coat makes them easy to identify, but it's their unique "bobbed" tail that gives them their name.
Telling you how to distinguish between a domestic cat and a bobcat is kind of a joke, but the significant similarities between the two species is one reason why we're so fascinated by them. And, for some, it may be useful advice. Discover a litter of abandoned kittens in a remote area? There actually is a chance they could be baby bobcats.
Biologists measured the bobcat kittens' teeth and head circumference, legs and tail length and gave them a quick check up and took blood and tissue samples before returning them to their den.
Let's start with the adults. There's some overlap in size between bobcats and domestic cats on the lower end (adult males can be as small as 6kg) and with cougars and other large cats as the bobcat reaches its maximum weight (up to 25kg in captivity). while most do have spots or "freckles" on their coat, some are just tawny brown, further leading to confusion with mountain lions. I actually thought the first lions I saw in the wild were really big bobcats, until I saw their long tails.
Ears and tails are the one sure way to tell a bobcat apart from anything else. From 8 to 10 weeks in age, all bobcats have black tips on their distinct, triangle-shaped ears, with white patches just underneath the black. Most of them have tufts of black at the top of the ear points. The tail is the other distinct feature of the animal. while it may grow up to 10 or 12 inches in length on some animals, that's still far more abbreviated than the long, heavy tail on cougars and most unaltered domestic cats.
Bobcats are a quiet, stealthy creature. You'll mostly likely see one slinking through underbrush at dawn or dusk, but you may occasionally spotlight one with a flashlight while hiking at night or hear their distinctive "yowl" in the distance.
The kittens are actually pretty hard to tell apart from those of a domestic cat. Under four weeks of age, bobcat kittens have bright blue eyes that then change to green or hazel from four to five weeks old. The black-tipped ears with the white patches should be evident, but that bobcat pattern fur may not be. Look at the shape of the head and eyes. Domestic kittens have more oval-shaped heads with almond-shaped eyes, while bobkittens have round eyes and rounder heads.
If you do see bobcat kittens in the wild, the best thing you can do is move far away from them and not interfere. Their mothers leave them alone for hours at a time while they go hunt food. They won't return to the kittens if you're in the area. Just because she's not around or you can't see her does not mean the kittens are abandoned. The kittens may be calling for her, but that's totally normal.
Bobcats and domestic cats are not thought the be capable of interbreeding, but there are people who keep bobcats as pets. They're said to have a similar nature to their domestic cousins, but can be leash trained like a dog. Declawing and neutering is strongly recommended. You know, so your pet doesn't kill and eat you.