Telegram.com, Worcester, MA
Sunday, August 20, 2006
"What a silly kitty," I thought as a tan, dappled feline wandered onto the road about 40 yards in front of my car last week and paused halfway across. "Don’t stop there."
The animal looked at me, then back over its shoulder and appeared to meow at something still in the bushes growing thick along the roadside.
This all took only seconds, as I stopped my car, now only 20 yards from the animal, and it became apparent the critter was not a house cat at all, but a bobcat — and a female.
The pause mid-road was to wait for two kittens to stroll out and follow mom across.
All three disappeared into thick brush.
The sighting more than doubled my lifetime bobcat-in-the-wild score.
The others — also of the roadside variety — had both been large, fast-moving adults, flashing across the highway in front of my vehicle.
This female was about half the size of the other bobcats I had seen, on the small end of the scale, which ranges from 15 to 35 pounds in weight and 28 to 47 inches in length, according to state wildlife biologists. Her kittens were less than half her size.
Lynx rufus is the only wild cat in Massachusetts, distinguished easily from house cats by size, short (3.5- to 7.5-inch-long) tail, face ruff and tufted ears.
The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife reports that females have one to four kittens per litter, with two the average; that males have nothing to do with raising the young; that kittens are born in a den lined with soft vegetation, begin taking solid food at one month, and stay with their mother until full grown, usually through their first winter; that bobcats live an average of 12 years in the wild, and females produce one litter a year until death.
For more information, go to the MassWildlife Web site www.mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/ and click on the button for "Wildlife" and then on the link to "Bobcats in Massachusetts."
Other recent sightings of interest include a short-tailed weasel on the Red Spot Trail just below the junction with the Pumpelly Trail, on the open ledges of the upper mountain and a yellow-rumped warbler, on the White Dot Trail where it descends into the forest.
Roger Leo can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.