Exhibits: Cat Canyon
At Cat Canyon you can view small mammals in naturalistic grotto settings. Cat Canyon is home to a variety of animals which can be viewed from overhead and at eye level.
Currently on exhibit in Cat Canyon:
- Grey Fox
The bobcat is both more common and more widely distributed in the Sonoran Desert than the mountain lion. It hunts smaller prey and can more easily adapt to marginal habitats. This small cat is solitary, avoiding other bobcats, and it is also careful to avoid mountain lions, which will kill it, given the chance. The bobcat is a good climber, retreating to trees for safety, but it prefers to hunt on the ground. The bobcat is mostly nocturnal; like the lion, it is secretive and shy, usually keeping to the more thickly vegetated areas and therefore not often seen by people.
The bobcat is much smaller [than the mountain lion], weighing only about 15 to 22 pounds (7 to 10 kilograms), though its long legs make it appear larger. It has broad cheek ruffs on the sides of its face and a very short tail that is black-tipped on the dorsal surface and white underneath. The bobcat usually has indistinct dark spots on its coat.
The bobcat hunts by ambush. Sometimes a bobcat wanders in search of prey, investigating brush piles, fallen trees, or rocky areas; at other times it waits for rabbit or rodent activity, then rushes in with a pounce and a lethal bite to the neck. Because the bobcat feeds on smaller prey, it usually has to hunt every day.
Bobcats are solitary, only coming together to mate in early spring. About two months later the mother bobcat seeks out a cave, a rock shelter, or even a hollow tree stump for a den and gives birth to 2 or 3 kittens. The young cats stay with the mother until the fall, hunting on her territory until they gain proficiency, then dispersing. The bobcat's home range is only a few square miles, depending on availability of prey. If prey is scarce the cat may wander extensively. Bobcats don't usually leave kills as evidence of their presence in an area, but they do make scrapes and mark scent posts with urine, often using the same area repeatedly.
The ocelot reaches the northern limits of its range in Arizona and Texas and so was probably never abundant in the United States. It is presently listed as Endangered.
Ocelots (Felis pardalis) have been documented in Arizona, though loss of habitat may limit them. Ocelots prefer dense thornscrub, live oak scrub, or riparian areas with an overstory cover. In Texas, a population of 50 to 100 ocelots has been holding steady for several years, but a population that small may not have enough genetic diversity to survive indefinitely.
Arizona Game & Fish Department biologists investigate and keep track of sightings of these rare cats, but caution that frequently juvenile mountain lions (with spots) and bobcats are confused with jaguars or ocelots, especially in poor light. Still, knowing that there could be a rare cat behind the next shrub or boulder makes the wilderness a much more exciting place!