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East Tennessee Outdoors… Mountain Bobcats

BY DANNY BLEVINS
STAR CORRESPONDENT

I got a text a few days ago from a gentleman who asked me to identify the large cat he had captured on his trail cam. He wasn’t sure if it was a bobcat or a mountain lion.

It took one look from me to see that he had filmed one of the biggest bobcats I have ever seen. The feline had three kittens with her, and she looked like she could take down any prey she wanted. It was truly a beautiful creature.

I guess we all have our favorite animals in the woods. Some love to watch deer, while others have a fascination with bears or birds. For me, it is the bobcat.

I remember that I was about 15 years old when I saw my first bobcat. My father was running his trapline, and a neighbor called and told us that my dad was coming home with something that would scare us out of the mountains.

It wasn’t long before my dad walked into our yard carrying what looked like a monster. It was as long as dad and had some of the most beautiful fur I have ever seen. It was a giant bobcat.

Since then, I have hunted them, trapped for them and just watched them, and to me they are amazing creatures. They can walk through the woods and never make a single noise.

It doesn’t matter if the woods are filled with fall leaves that are knee deep, they will not make a sound.

They usually are not the largest creatures in the woods. A black bear could make a meal out of the cat if he can catch it, and in Florida pythons are devastating their populations.

But what the bobcat lacks in size, he makes up for in stalking ability and in aggression.

Bobcats are some of the most elusive creatures in the mountains sometimes only seen at dusk or at dawn as they hunt for their prey.

Though their prey is usually small animals such as rabbits, squirrels and mice, they will tackle a fawn deer or a small deer if they get the opportunity.

You may see them in the woods as small as an overgrown house cat or as big as a small hound dog. Usually they will weigh between 10 and 40 pounds, but I have seen a few that would have weighed closer to 50 pounds or more.

The young ones have a blue tint to their fur, but as they develop, they grow the grey fur that most people recognize.

They are members of the lynx family, but the northern lynx has a long tuft of hair at the tips of their ears and they are usually larger. Some biologists have even thought that bobcats hybridize with lynx when their territories overlap.

Some signs of a bobcat in the woods may be a footprint that does not have any claws and has a distinctive pad. Also, bobcats love to drag their kill to an area that is secluded and cover it up after they have eaten their fill.

This is a trait of lynx and cougars too. If you see a partially eaten deer or other animal that has been dragged to a secluded area and covered up with leaves and other debris, it is probably a bobcat kill.

The animals in these mountains are amazing, and the more you look for them, the more you see how beautiful they really are.

Next time you are out in our mountains at dawn or at dusk, see if you can spot one of these beautiful creatures. It will make your day.