Smokies Wildlife - Bobcat
Wide-footed tracks break the smooth snow up the mountainside, and beyond lies a heap of leaves and twisted limbs powered with new snowfall. The tracks lead away, to a rotting old log where the predatory bobcat has made his winter home. When night falls, he will walk on stealthy paws to feed upon his kill, which lies hidden under the pile of leaves he has scratched over it. The winter is long and hunts are hard in the snowbound highlands of the Smokies, so the bobcat saves his food until his hunger grows sharp.
The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a creature of the mountains, found at all elevations of the park. A small animal, he normally weighs from eighteen to twenty-five pounds, although an occasional male may weigh up to forty pounds. A bobcat's fur is pale gray, long and silky in texture, with hints of spots and stripes scattered across its body. Hi is easily recognized, chiefly because of his short stumpy tail, wide furry cheeks, and long pointed ears tipped with fur during the winter. Bobcats are nocturnal animals, but , though common in the Smokies, are seldom seen because most people come to the mountains in the daylight. Night visitors, however, may see the flash of glowing eyes on a dark mountain night, as their cars come upon a bobcat on his prowl.
Bobcats breed in the late winter, and their young are born fifty to sixty days later, in March or early April, one to five kittens in each litter. Bobcats, with the exception of the young, have few enemies, but they are fervent hunters themselves. Opossum is a particularly favored prey, but also rabbits, foxes, and mice often fall victim to the carnivorous bobcat's hunger. One feature of the bobcat's anatomy that aids him on winter hunts is his enormous wide feet, which serve as showshoes as the small cat makes its way through heavy snows. Year round he is active in the mountains, an elusive night creature of the Great Smokies.