North Georgia Wildlife Part 9 (Bobcats)
The bobcat is a native mammal to the North Georgia mountains. They are about twice the size of the common house cat and are generally yellowish brown with various streaks or spots of dark brown and/or black. The under side is usually white with black spots and black bars on the insides of the legs. The tail is short and gives the appearance of being “bobbed”. Females and males are colored the same, but males are generally larger. Males can weigh from 12-40+ lbs, while females can weigh from 9-34 lbs.
Bobcats can occupy a wide variety of habitats due to its wide range of prey. The typical bobcat habitat in Georgia is mixed forest and agricultural areas that have a high percentage of early successional stages. The home range size depends on the sex of the bobcat and the quality of the habitat. Males generally have a much larger home range size than females with some males having a home range size of over 10 square miles. Females home range size is generally less than 1 square mile and home ranges of both sexes of bobcats can overlap.
The bobcat is a carnivore and an opportunistic predator. Common prey include mice, rats, rabbits and other small mammals. However, bobcats will also prey on reptiles, birds, feral cats, and animals as large as deer and will also feed on hunter killed or road killed deer.
The breeding season for bobcats can begin as early as January and run through March. Most female and male bobcats do not breed until their second year and average bobcat litter is 2-3 kittens following a 62-day gestation period. Dens may be located in caves, rock piles, hollow logs or trees. Bobcat kittens weigh 10-12 oz at birth and may gain up to 0.4 ounces per day. Their eyes are closed at birth and will remain closed for approximately 10 days. The kittens begin hunting with their mother at around 5 months of age. Males do not assist with the raising of the young, and except for the breeding season, lead predominantly solitary lives. Juvenile bobcats leave their mother before she gives birth the following year.
Mortality on bobcats can be caused directly by other animals, by competition with other animals, diseases, parasites, and by man. Coyotes, hawks, and owls may prey on bobcat kittens and coyotes may out compete bobcats in years with low prey abundance. Rabies, tularemia, feline panleukopenia, leptospirosis, and various other diseases and parasites can also contribute to bobcat death. Bobcats routinely reach 5-6 years of age and sometimes reach 12-13 years old in the wild however, captive bobcats have reached over 30 years of age.
Bobcats usually avoid areas of high human traffic and development and only occasionally cause nuisance problems. They may occasionally prey on smaller livestock such as goats or chickens but overall are not a major problem.
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