The bobcat is an unexpected urban resident

March 10, 2015, 1 p.m.

As urban and suburban residents learn how to coexist with wildlife, there is a rarely seen species that they may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of now and again.

Bobcats are an adaptable species and as long as they can find suitable habitat that provides both food and shelter, they do quite well -- even when that habitat is right next to humans. The National Parks Service, which has been tracking and collaring bobcats since 1996, notes that our suburban landscape can be a great resource for bobcats living on the fringes, as "the lush landscapes of residential areas also attract many types of smaller animals which provide a great food source for bobcats. Bobcats are strict carnivores. We have found through scat studies that bobcats in this area mainly prey on rabbits, but also consume other small animals such as woodrats, squirrels, pocket gophers, and mice, all of which can be plentiful in urban areas."

Even though they are right next to us, urban and suburban residents may go their entire lives without ever seeing a bobcat. Bobcats tend to be nocturnal hunters, not often spotted during the day. And as Urban Carnivores points out, bobcats living near humans tend to be even more strictly nocturnal as a way to avoid interaction with humans.

This adaptability of bobcats is what has helped them to be the most widespread wild cat species in North America. Well, this and some legal protections from hunting. Bobcat numbers took a serious hit in the 1970s due to hunting for their pelts. Protection through CITES and the countries where the species is found has helped bobcats become widespread in most of its old habitat once again. Conservation groups continue to advocate for the species and work to end unnecessary trapping of the species.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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