THEY CAN BE FOUND ALL OVER NEW MEXICO  by Ben Hanson

This small cat is rarely seen by people in New Mexico, even though it is found all over the state. The diminutive bobcat is very shy and secretive. They are very adaptable and are found in every county in the state. They roam in river bottoms, the Alpine Zone of the high mountains and sandy areas of the Lower Sonoran Desert Zone. It even survives in highly populated areas.

Bobcats have the long lean body of a house cat, but have a short tail and sharp erect ears with tufts of hair sprouting from the tip. They may weight anywhere from 12 to 40 pounds. Their fur is yellowish with mottled gay and black markings. The coat tends to be spotted on the flanks and striped on the face and legs. Their underside is a brilliant white with black spots. This remarkable belly fur is what has made them very popular with trappers over the years.

Bobcats are great wanderers. They can be found in open valleys, but prefer cliffs and rocky slopes which provide dens for their young. Like other cats, bobcats hunt mostly at night, but may also be found out scrounging for food during the day. They are very savage fighters when cornered or when attacking prey using their sharp claws and teeth viciously. This became very clear to one of our officers when he let a young bobcat get too close to his face. He ended up in the doctor’s office to get stitches in his face.

Bobcats are very fast for short distances, but like most cats their energy quickly fades. They have excellent hearing and eyesight, but a notably poor sense of smell. Bobcats are opportunistic while hunting and will feed on rodents, rabbits, grouse, quail, deer, domestic poultry and even some insects. They depend on seclusion more than flight to stay clear of their major threats which are humans, coyotes and perhaps even mountain lions.

Bobcats survived intensive predator control programs earlier in this century. Bounties were offered and poisons were used to control bobcat depredation on livestock. Federal trappers still must remove a few bobcats from the wild that are attacking livestock, but they are protected. They are classed as a furbearer and may be trapped in the winter months by licensed trappers.

Bobcats mate from February to September and usually give birth to 3 kittens 60 days later. Each female normally produces one litter per year. Bobcats’ coats grow longer and thicker in the winter to cope with the cold season. Even when snow covers the ground they must continue hunting to survive.

Even though they are abundant in New Mexico, the person who sees an elusive bobcat in the wild should consider themselves very fortunate.