The bay lynx, bobcat, or wildcat, as Lynx ruffus and its close relatives are variously called in different parts of the country, is one of the most widely distributed and best known of our wild animals. It is about two-thirds the size of the Canada lynx and characterized by much slenderer proportions, especially in its legs and feet.
The ears are less conspicuously tufted and the tip of the tail is black only on its upper half. Bobcats range from Nova Scotia and southern British Columbia over practically all of the wooded and brushy parts of the United States except along the northern border, and extend south to the southern end of the high table-land of Mexico.
From the earliest settlement of America the bobcat has figured largely in hunting literature, and the popular estimate of its character is well attested by the frontier idea of the superlative physical prowess of a man who can “whip his weight in wildcats.” Although our wildcat usually weighs less than 20 pounds, if its reputed fierceness could be sustained it would be an awkward foe. But, so far as man is concerned, unless it is cornered and forced to defend itself, it is extremely timid and inoffensive.
Like all cats, it is very muscular and active, and to the rabbits, squirrels, mice, grouse, and other small game upon which it feeds is a persistent and remorseless enemy. Although an expert tree-climber, it spends most of its time on the ground, where it ordinarily seeks its prey. It is most numerous in districts where birds and small mammals abound, and parts of California seem especially favorable for it.
Ordinarily the bobcat seems to be rather uncommon, but its nocturnal habits usually prevent its real numbers being actually known. In districts where not much hunted it is not uncommonly seen abroad by day, especially in winter, when driven by hunger. The bay lynx makes its den in hollows in trees, in small caves, and in openings among rock piles wherever quiet and safety appear assured. Although a shy animal, it persists in settled regions if sufficient woodland or broken cottntrv remains to give it shelter. From such retreats it sallies forth at night, and not only do the chicken roosts of careless householders suffer, but toll is even taken among the lambs of sheep herds.
As in the case of most small cats, the stealthy hunting habits of the bay lynx renders it excessively destructive to ground- frequenting birds, especially to quail, grouse, and other game birds. For this reason, like many of its kind, it is outlawed in all settled parts of the country.
Canada lynx picture and information (Lynx canadensis) – nic’s pic kwik
The lynxes are long-legged, short-bodied cats, with tufted ears and a short “bobbed” tail. They are distributed from the northern limit of trees south into the Temperate Zone throughout most of the northern part of both Old and New Worlds.
In North America there are two types – the smaller animal, southern in distribution, and the larger, or Canada lynx, limited to the north, where its range extends from the northern limit of trees south to the northern border of the United States.
It once occupied all the mountains of New England and south in the Alleghenies to Pennsylvania. In the West it is still a habitant of the Rocky Mountains as far south as Colorado, and of the Sierra Nevada nearly to Mount Whitney.
The Canada lynx is, notable for the beauty of its head, one of the most striking among all our carnivores. This species is not only much larger than its southern neighbor, the bay lynx, but may also be distinguished from it by its long ear tips, thick legs, broad spreading feet, and the complete jet-black end of the tail.
It is about 3 feet long and weighs from 15 to over 30 pounds. As befits an animal of the great northern forests; it,has a long thick coat of fur, which gives it a remarkably fluffy appearance. Its feet in winter are heavily furred above and below and are so broad that they serve admirably for support in deep snow, through which it would otherwise have to wade laboriously.
This animal does not attack people, though popular belief often credits it with such action. It feeds mainly on such small prey as varying hares, mice, squirrels, foxes, and the grouse and other birds living in its domain; but on occasion it even kills animals as large as mountain sheep. One such feat was actually witnessed above timberline in winter on a spur of Mount McKinley. The lynx sprang from a ledge as the sheep passed below, and, holding on the sheep’s neck and shoulders, it reached forward and by repeatedly biting put out its victim’s eyes, thus reducing it to helplessness.
The chief food of the Canada lynx is the varying hare, which throughout the North periodically increases to the greatest abundance and holds its numbers for several years. When an epizootic disease appears, as it does regularly, and almost exterminates the hares, there is an immediate and corresponding drop in the number of lynx. This evidences one of Nature’s great tragedies, not only among the overabundant hares, but among the lynxes, for with the failure of their food supply over a vast area tens of thousands of them perish of starvation.
The Canada lynx has from two to five kittens, which are marked with dusky spots and short bands, indicating an ancestral relationship to animals similar to the ocelot, or tigercat, of the American tropics. The young usually keep with the mother for nearly a year. Such families no doubt form the hunting parties whose rabbit drives on the Yukon Islands were described to me by the fur traders and Indians of the Yukon Valley.
During sledge trips along the lower Yukon I often saw the distinctive broad, rounded tracks of lynxes, showing where they had wandered through the forests or crossed the wide, snow-covered river channel. Here and there, as the snow became very deep and soft, the tracks showed where a series of leaps had been made. Lynx trails commonly led from thicket to thicket where hares, grouse, or other game might occur. Canada lynxes appear to be rather stupid animals, for they are readily caught in traps, or even in snares, and, like most cats, make little effort to escape.