At first glance, this colorful little book comes across as a small volume about a small cat. Not so. “Bobcat: Master of Survival” by Kevin Hansen grows in stature with every page.
“Bobcat” covers the species throughout its range in North America while providing an Arizona perspective (including a foreword by the author’s mentor, former Arizona Game and Fish Department lion biologist Harley Shaw).
Written for a general audience, “Bobcat” is arranged in six chapters. The first four deal with the cat’s natural history, the last two with its relationships with humans. Acronyms and scientific jargon are defined and explained, and the book also serves as a wildlife management primer.
Hansen bases his book on a plethora of bobcat studies. Among other fascinating facts, readers learn that cottontails and wood rats are the principal prey for Arizona’ bobcats; that these wildcats see better than humans at night but not as well as us in the daylight; and that bobcats are as difficult to sex as they are to census (dental differences being about as good a method of telling males from females as any other).
That so much research has been conducted on Lynx rufus is due to conservation concerns triggered by the trapping mania of the 1970s, when bobcat pelts sold for $200 and up. Ironically, the boom in bobcat trapping originated with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species prohibition against importing “spotted cats” in 1975. Because cats such as leopards, servals and ocelots were no longer available, furriers substituted bobcats (which were not listed as spotted). The only legal limitation was that member countries had to show the exportation of bobcat hides would “not be detrimental to the survival of the species.”
One of the reasons that I like this book is the upbeat message. While half of the world’s cat species are in danger, the bobcat is thriving. Arizona’s population alone is estimated at 30,000.
Published on slick paper by Oxford University Press, the 212 pages of readable text are accompanied by 27 color photos, an index and an exhaustive bibliography. Nifty black-and-white sketches by wildlife artist Jim McCain precede each chapter. The book’s 23 figures and tables are easy to follow.
Do bobcats scream like panthers are supposed to? Read the book and find out.
–David E. Brown
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