State Fair briefs: Bobcat chronicles amaze - and appall
THE DES MOINES REGISTER - August 21, 2009
At the Courtyard Stage beside the Department of Natural Resources building Thursday afternoon, a bobcat stood atop a table and glared menacingly at a crowd of 70 or so.
The bobcat, of course, was stuffed. But Todd Gosselink, a research biologist for the DNR's wildlife bureau, made the animal come alive with stories from his six-year research project on the resurgent bobcat population in Iowa. The project has collected and examined more than 550 bobcat carcasses and has captured and tagged more than 120 bobcats.
Here are a few facts about these animals, which look like house cats, only three times the size:
- One bobcat has a living space of 22 square miles, but they're rarely seen because they're active between dusk and dawn.
- Bobcats have been known to attack free-range chickens but not sheep, cattle or humans. They're probably not good to cuddle with, though; their claws are also three times the size of a house cat's.
- A female bobcat weighs 17 pounds, a male about 23 pounds. They have small tails and pointed ears with tufts of hair on top.
"Everyone thinks it's so fun to be a wildlife biologist, sitting outside and watching animals," Gosselink told the crowd. "Actually, we sit in the truck all day and listen to beeps all night. We rarely see the animal."
That's because bobcat tracking often involves the monitoring of radio waves emitted from devices placed on the cats after they've been trapped.
Perhaps the most vivid moment of Gosselink's presentation came when he spoke of bobcats' diet. As part of the project, the contents of stomachs from 100 bobcat carcasses were examined. The No. 1 prey of Iowa bobcats was cottontail rabbits, followed by squirrels and mice.
Gosselink passed around bags full of samples of things salvaged from bobcat stomachs. The bobcats clearly had eaten other animals whole.
"They're not picky eaters," he said. "They're hungry, and they eat it quickly."
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org