Familial structures and other research projects
The Wildlife Center at Crosstimbers Ranch is in a unique position to conduct research on a species that very little is known about. Yes, you can find out all kinds of information about bobcats. Just take a look on the internet. Use any browser you fancy. There will be plenty of web pages on the bobcat, but they will all basically be the same one or two page information sheet on “felis rufus” or “lynx rufus”.
The difference is, WCCR sees 60-70 bobcats annually. Many of them come in very young, often their eyes are not even opened. They also come in as litters, singles, and older cubs as well as adults. It gives us a wonderful perspective and insight into their personalities, habits, and social structures. The best way to learn more about a species is to observe large numbers of individuals of the species. WCCR is using our unique position as an opportunity to do exactly that.
One of the things we are supremely interested in is the social structure of bobcats. So far, we have found that rural bobcats act extremely different from urban bobcats. Not only this, but that these cats express far different behavior than one might expect. For example, Pixie and Quincey. Both of these cats are hopefuls for an education program. Pixie, a young female kit and Quincey a nearly two year old male entering into sexual maturity.
I caught Pix and Quinc in one of their regular grooming sessions. Pixie and Quincey spend their time cuddling and playing. Quincey mothers and loves on Pixie as if he was her daddy. He grooms her, removes fleas, and makes sure she is squeaky clean.
You can’t tell from this series of pictures, but Pixie is currently about half Quincey’s size. One might expect a young male coming into sexual maturity to be unkind or even aggressive to a young kit like Pixie, but years of observing and recording activities just like this one has shown the staff here at WCCR that this just isn’t the case. There is still so much that we do not know about these amazing and elusive animals. Who would have guessed that an adult male would be so nurturing with a cub that isn’t even his? The bobcat is not an aggressive animal, and certainly not one to be vilified or feared.
Durring this photo session, Pixie actually laid her head down, and closed her eyes. You can see the bond these two share just from these pictures. These guys are so emotional, and form such strong bonds with one another, and with us. It is pretty incredible that an animal considered fairly solitary by most common knowledge is so emotionally connected to other members of its species.
These cats fill a wonderful nitch in our urban and rural ecosystems, controlling populations of pest animals like rats, mice, and snakes. Yes, they will go after a cute bunny or a squirrel or quail, but rarely will they ever go after anything larger than that. When they do go after larger prey, it is out of desperation. Usually caused by being relocated, and therefore starvation due to lack of familiarity with the area. Bobcats stay within their home range their entire lives, and so relocating them causes them to struggle until they can become familiar with their new surroundings. Of course, there are other factors that would come into play in these and other scenarios.
The point is, there is little protection for an animal that we know incredibly little about. When is it time to take action? When humanity creates a rarity out of such a wide-spread animal that we do not know if we can bring it back from the brink? How are we to learn more about this animal if we don’t protect them?