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Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
January 17
1994, 4:31 a.m. - Magnitude 6.7 Northridge earthquake rocks Santa Clarita Valley [video]

Commentary by Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel
| Sunday, Jan 31, 2016

DianneErskineHellrigelWhen I was a kid, I had a bobcat as a pet. I had a lot of exotic animals because I lived near a state park, and it seemed that whenever animals were injured or orphaned, I’d end up with them.

So even as a kid, I was rehabbing critters. Most of them could not be returned to the wild; those that could be, healed and were returned to the hills near my house. But the majority stayed at my house and enjoyed a great life, some being hand-fed.

It is illegal now to keep a bobcat, so don’t go looking to bring one into your home.

Bobcats are about twice the size of a large housecat. Boracho, my bobcat, weighed an exceptional 45 pounds as an adult. He came to me at 5 weeks old, malnourished and full of fleas, which gave him infectious anemia. Luckily, I had a great vet who was used to my family bringing wild critters to his office. Infectious anemia required transfusions as well as getting rid of the nasty fleas he had.

bobcats06No one knew what happened to his mother or siblings, but Boracho was lucky to have landed in my lap. The vet blood-typed my 19 house cats and ended up with a match for the very sick Boracho. After months of treatment, he came home and lived with us for 16 years. The normal lifespan for a bobcat is between 7 and 10 years in the wild.

The University of California at Hayward heard about this miracle kitty and didn’t believe it was a bobcat. So they came out to my home in Danville and studied him. They were surprised to find a tame, loving, brilliant Lynx rufus under our roof. So, Boracho became famous – at least in Northern California.

The name “bobcat” comes from the fact that these cats have bobbed or short tails. Bobcat tails are generally 5 to 6 inches long. Bobcats have a beautiful spotted coat, blue eyes when they are born that become yellowish-green as adults, and weigh from 15 to 35 pounds on average. Boracho was bigger than that due to his country-club lifestyle.

bobcats05Bobcats can be found throughout the United States and into Mexico. Different subspecies can be found in Canada and in Europe. In fact, there are 12 recognizable subspecies.

Bobcats are highly adaptable to urbanization and can be found in our local parks, and sometimes at night or early morning you might see them in your neighborhood. They will be out prowling around for cat or dog food that you’ve left outside for the night, or a juicy little pet you’ve left out in the cold. (Note to self: Bring in pets at night.)

Although it has not been documented that bobcats prey on small dogs or cats, other local predators definitely do, so protect your animals and bring them in.

If you’re a hiker, trail runner or mountain biker, you have probably seen bobcats in Santa Clarita’s open-space areas. When you are out hiking, keep an eye out for evidence of bobcats. Things you might notice are deposits of urine and feces to mark their territory, or claw markings. Of course, you can also find bobcat tracks, especially after a rain or in the snow.

Open-space areas and forests are the best place for bobcats to find their prey. Prey animals include woodrats, squirrels, rabbits, voles, gophers, birds and other small animals. Bobcats prefer small mammals but will also eat birds and sometimes lizards.

bobcats02Bobcats that live near urban areas have been known to attack smaller ungulates such as goats and sheep. Adult cattle and horses are just too big for them, but it is possible they might attack their young. Rarely, bobcats have been known to kill deer. In areas where none of these prey animals lives, bobcats will search out other creatures to feed upon such as fox, mink, skunks and fishers.

Bobcats are generally nocturnal. They sleep during the day and do their best to avoid contact with humans. They are solitary and very territorial. The home range for males is 3 to 4 square miles, and for females it is 1½ to 2 square miles. Home ranges can vary due to population, available food sources and mates. A female bobcat usually produces 2 to 4 young per liter.

A lot of people have told me they are terrified of bobcats. In general, bobcats will not attack people. They will shy away and would rather leave the area than confront a human. The last thing they want is human interaction. However, if you corner a bobcat or pose a risk to their young, all bets are off.

And they are great fighters. Boracho shredded a neighbor’s oversized dog when it tried to break into Boracho’s cage. Boracho defended his territory. If you see a bobcat and want to scare it away, make loud noises or spray him with your garden hose. Bobcats hate noise and water.

bobcats04The biggest current threat to bobcats, other than being hunted by predators such as coyotes and mountain lions, are poisons such as rodenticides. People use rodenticides in their yards and hills or open space near their property in an effort to keep rats, gophers and other rodents away from their yard. The result is that these rodents eat the poison, and the bobcats and other local predators eat the rodents, and all of them are poisoned.

Please consider using traps for rodents instead of a rodenticide. Keep in mind that one of the best killers of rodents are bobcats. Other leading causes of death for bobcats include disease, other predators, hunters, starvation and automobiles.

Bobcats evolved from the Eurasian lynx, which crossed into North America via the Bering Land Bridge. So they have been here approximately 2.6 million years. These cats evolved into the bobcat we know here. They were blocked from the north by glaciers. The Canadian lynx actually evolved from the Asian lynx.

bobcats03In years past, bobcats were prized for their beautiful spotted fur and were nearly decimated. International laws began to protect the bobcat in the 1970s. The population revived, and it is now stabilized in most states. Hunters, when they can, still hunt the bobcat. Farmers defend their flocks of sheep, chickens and geese from predatory bobcats, as well.

On the other side of the coin, birds of prey – owls, eagles, hawks – as well as wolves, coyotes, dogs and mountain lions prey on bobcats. It’s a tough world out there in the forests and grasslands.

If you see a bobcat, don’t approach him and don’t interfere with his activities unless you wish to remove him from your property. Noise and water will take care of him if he is a nuisance.

If you see a bobcat in open space, enjoy his grace and beauty, and take a photo if you have your camera handy. There’s no need to be afraid.

Most of all, realize that this sighting is a reward, and you are the lucky recipient.


Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel is executive director of the Community Hiking Club and president of the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy. Contact Dianne through communityhikingclub.org or at zuliebear@aol.com.




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1 Comment

  1. Jim Soliz says:

    Gracias por este articulo educativo atacante Los Gatos Salvajes. Sin duda, son muy hermosos.
    También deseo compartir con ustd.que me da mucha pena que ustd. tiene que publica sus artículos tan buenos por medio de este Blog ya que también publican los artículos homophobicos, sexistas y racistas de un Joe Messina.. Gracias por la oportunidad de desearle mucho éxito.
    Jim Soliz

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