The Umstead Coalition 
Celebrating Umstead State Park since 1934!


Umstead Bobcat Quest

04/29/2021 11:09 AM | Billy Drakeford (Administrator)

My bobcat sightings are similar to me having a girlfriend in high school; a surprising and rare event for which I was grateful.  I canoed a lot when I was younger, and I saw a handful of them on logs over the rivers.  I mostly saw their tracks. 

The closest I ever came to one was on a canoe trip in the Okefenokee Swamp when some friends and I were camping on Jacksons Island where bobcats would come right up to you expecting a handout.  They were impressive, beautiful animals and looked like scrappers. 

My grandfather trapped during the Depression and he had a large cage to live catch some larger animals.  My Uncle Joe told me he caught bobcats(as well as one overly curious neighbor kid) in that cage and took some to Charles Town Landing State Park in South Carolina to reside as the first bobcats in their Animal Forest.  From all the stories I have heard about my Grandfather, he could, as the saying goes, whip his weight in wildcats. 

There is still a legal trade in bobcat skins with 65,000 being exported in 2015 for coats that can sell upwards of $100,000.  Individual skins are worth between $200 and $400 dollars with exceptional skins being sold for $1000.   Even with the trapping, studies seem to agree that the bobcat populations are remaining steady or increasing since the 90’s. 

The Umstead bobcats are proving troublesome to find.  So much in fact that I started the Umstead Trail Cam project in hopes of finding one.  I am a fair tracker and I have yet to see a bobcat track, scat or kill in the park.   I suspect our bobcat population has declined but to what extent I don’t know.  There is a great story from one of the Ranger’s kids in the 60’s about him walking outside to see his sister pinning a bobcat to the ground with a branch.   

Bobcats are not big animals in the South, with an average weight for males being around 10 lbs and around 7 lbs for females.   A big northern male may top 50 lbs.  When you take a look at the beautiful video of a northern bobcat jumping a stream, look for the striped tail with the black tip as well as the tufted ears.  Bobcat jumps over a river with a single leap - YouTube  It is all power and grace. 

Bobcats are known to be generalists when it comes to diet.  Their preference would be rabbits, mice, squirrels and birds, but they will eat snakes, amphibians, crustaceans, insects and rarely skunks.  Bobcats kill fawns and young deer as well.  Cats are not the long-distance runners like the dog family, so the bobcat hunts with slow careful stalking culminating in a short all-out sprint or lie in wait at a likely spot. 

February and March are the peak breeding season with a 60 day gestation so little blue-eyed (when they are born) bobcats have just arrived or will be with us soon.  They will be weaned in two months and then the mother will teach them to kill by bringing young birds and mammals to them.  By the fall, they will be self-sufficient. 

To end, if you see a bobcat, please report your sighting to me, along with the general area you saw it at.   Also, please feel free to send a picture of any tracks that look like the picture.  william.drakeford@ncparks.gov.   

Know more to see more,

Ranger Billy

Front Track  1 5/8" - 2 3/8" long   1 3/8" - 2 1/2" wide

Rear Track  1 9/16" - 2 3/8"long   1 3/16" - 2 1/2"wide

                             

The Umstead Coalition

We are dedicated to preserving the natural integrity of William B. Umstead State Park and the Richland Creek Corridor.

WHO WE ARE

The Umstead Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.