Big Cats

1.18.2019


The New Mexico Bobcat
Image Courtesy of Roli Varma

Having lived in the southwest for more than 35 years, I’ve always been intrigued of how the natural wildlife, specifically bears, coyotes, and even mountain lions, have been able to coexist with the urban population. My description of Albuquerque that I often give when asked about the surrounding wilderness, is this,
“We’re kind of like the old west here, with flat desert surroundings that have remained undeveloped, punctuated by rugged mountains to the east, and both environments are teaming with four legged predators.”
Recently, our urban center has seen a rise in the big cats strolling into town, particularly the native bobcat. Although not as large as the mountain lion which typically stay in the higher elevation, the elusive bobcat can be just as intimidating - even though it may not appear that way if you spot one. In fact the bobcat is found in every county of New Mexico. Whether it be the state’s southern desert, or the mountainous northern terrain, the bobcat has adapted a lifestyle between the extremes.

As with most predators of the region, their primary need to invade the urban city is in search of food – which can also mean feasting on small pets, such as cats, dogs and chickens. The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish publishes an informative document on the bobcat which includes; how to identify one, their particular habits and the danger they can pose. Here are excerpts,
“Sometimes confused with the lynx, bobcats are much smaller, weighing 12-40 pounds. Their ears are more erect, sharply pointed and have prominent tufts. The bobcat has spotted flanks, which are mottled with black, gray and reddish colors. Other differences include the bobcat’s striped face and legs, and its short tail with alternating rings of dark and light hair and a spotted end. The lynx has a larger, solid-gray tail with a black tip. 
Like other cats, bobcats are nocturnal hunters but occasionally may hunt during the day. Growing thick long coats in the winter, bobcats hunt year-around and are savage fighters when taking prey. With short bursts of speed, a bobcat can overtake a rider on horseback. An opportunistic hunter, their diet commonly includes rodents, rabbits, grouse, quail, deer and insects.
Sometimes called wildcats for a reason, remember to be cautious if you should corner a bobcat. It will defend itself vigorously.”
A bobcat if hungry enough won’t hesitate to patrol your backyard for food sources. The reports I’ve received from neighbors - particularly those living on the mountain fringe, or bordering a walking trail – come in the form of their pet’s entanglement with a bobcat, to a full disappearance of the pet from the family property.  

While cocker spaniels are indeed hunting dogs, and quite good ones at that, I’ve already lectured Chloe that we’re not going to be hunting, or chasing bobcats anytime soon, even if they may look harmless. I’ve also made it a point to keep a closer eye on her when she’s in the backyard at night!

These unique pictures are the curtesy of Professor Roli Varma, University of New Mexico, who had a group of bobcats take over her backyard deck a few years ago. Yes, they may look friendly like your pet cat, but the bobcat can easily slash and subdue its prey with their razor sharp claws and quick agility - and their tenacity to not back down, makes them a formidable adversary!


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