Seeing a bobcat at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson, Arizona is not usual, but it has happened for me a couple of times the last few years. Most recent, my partner and I were birding there and found a cottonwood tree where birds loved to be within its leaves. While we searched for birds, a bobcat was nearby.
My eye caught sight of the bobcat. I told my partner to slowly turn around and see what was behind us. There was “Wyatt”, a bobcat we later learn about from the Bobcats in Tucson research being done in our area. We noticed his long legs, large feet, short tail, and a radio-collar around his neck. He walked on and so did we as we watched his behavior.
I saw a young boy waving a stick around, his parents walking behind him, and approaching us from another direction on the trail. I signaled to them to move slowly and be alert while they watched the bobcat at a respectful distance. They were thrilled, as we were, to see this animal. The bobcat sat and watched an area of tall grasses intently. We watched it all too.
After a couple of minutes, the bobcat moved to another spot. Their sit, stealthly-look, and wait is characteristic of these animals who mostly eat rabbits and all kinds of rodents. They camouflage nicely in these woods and use it to their advantage to catch prey.
Bobcats are beautiful creatures! They are found in about every U.S. state in wild lands and urban areas. Research teams studying bobcats in the Tucson area began in November 2020. They have trapped and radio-collared at least 15 bobcats so they can study the movement of these animals. Male bobcats have large areas which overlap with other males, but females do not have their smaller areas overlap with other females. The Bobcats in Tucson research also indicates bobcats living in urban areas: people’s backyard, under a storage unit, or on a house roof! The findings from their research is absolutely fascinating!
I know in our neighborhood there are bobcats because we have seen them fighting behind our neighbor’s home or walking down the middle of a nearby road. We have a number of washes and riparian areas the bobcats most likely use as ways to cross through our area. A bobcat crossing a road though is a bobcats biggest hazard. One male was tracked crossing roads 2,000 times during 10 months of their tracking … the 75th time crossing a particular road was when it was hit by a vehicle and killed.
Bobcats live on average 7 – 8 years. Kittens are born usually in April, nursed by the female for 3-4 months, and continue to travel with the mother from 5 – 8 months before going on their own. When a female can leave an urban area and make a den on wild land, it will do so. But sometimes people have discovered a female bobcat having its kittens in their backyard. People have been flexible in allowing the bobcats to remain there for the time needed for the developing kittens. Then the bobcats move on.
And so did “Wyatt”, the male bobcat studied by the Bobcats in Tucson research group, and the one we saw at the wetlands on our hike. We watched as he slipped back into another area of the wetlands. Wow, what a sighting … and shared with other people who were as thrilled as we were! Check out the Bobcats in Tucson website for more information.