Ever spot a bobcat at Jones Park? With its tufted ears and stubby tails, bobcats have an exotic appearance that make them a welcome site in many parks and natural areas. Although common throughout Texas, these reclusive creatures tend to stay hidden during the day, preferring to venture out at night to hunt rodents and other small creatures.
Despite their shyness, Jones Park staff have been lucky enough to have noted seven bobcat sightings in the park within the past two years.
Last year, Jones Park Naturalist Jason Naivar noticed a lone bobcat hanging around the Nature Center. Two others were photographed by Jones Park’s hidden game camera near the Highway 59 Spring Creek Greenway entrance on the northeast end of the park. Naivar also spotted a bobcat kitten on the Spring Creek Greenway trail in September 2016. He believes it’s possible the same kitten is now visiting the Nature Center as an adult.
Despite multiple sightings, Naivar said it’s difficult to estimate the number of bobcats inhabiting the park, since bobcats avoid each other.
“They are solitary hunters with large ranges who only meet during mating season in February,” he said.
According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, one sign that a bobcat inhabits an area is scratches on tree trunks caused by the cat sharpening its claws or climbing.
You can recognize a bobcat by its distinctive ears and ruff around its face. Bobcats also feature unique fur patterns that may include spots and rosettes or no markings at all. About twice the size of a domestic cat, bobcats have a larger bone structure and legs adapted for jumping. They are also more muscular with a deeper jaw that allows its mouth to open wider. Its ears are prominent, pointed, and tipped with ear tufts of black hair that assist in collecting sound to improve its hearing.
Adult bobcats are usually 25 to 30 inches long, stand 15 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder, and weigh between 15 and 25 pounds. They have a short tail about six inches long. The male and female look alike, but the male grows larger.
In their natural environment, bobcats can help keep small animal populations in check. Due to their territorial nature, bobcats usually do not overpopulate an area.
“One bobcat can help control rodent, squirrel, and bird populations for up to 50 square miles,” said Jones Park Naturalist Jason Naivar.
Besides habitat loss, the only threat to bobcats are mountain lions and coyotes, as they compete for food sources, he said.
If you do spot a bobcat, enjoy the moment from a distance. Bobcats are beautiful creatures that are an important part of the ecosystem, but never attempt to approach one if you encounter a bobcat at Jones Park.