Unfortunate accident leads to educational opportunity
By Bobbi Sistrunk
Sun Jun 21, 2009, 10:00 AM EDIT
But for a few “exotic pets” let loose by their owners and a very wily feral cat or two, the only true wild cat in existence in Massachusetts is the bobcat.
Known to be timid and elusive, bobcats are very seldom seen in open or populated areas. They are least inclined to be sighted in Southeastern Massachusetts. So it was rather unusual to have one struck and killed on Route 44 in Carver on a November morning in 2007.
The large male cat was collected by the environmental police, after which MassWildlife took possession of it and made arrangements to have it preserved for future educational use. The cat weighed 26.5 pounds and was carefully preserved by taxidermist Bill Minior, who also serves as chief of wildlife lands for MassWildlife and is instrumental in many acquisitions of land that is open to hunters across the state.
Bobcats, so named for their distinct “bobbed” tail, are easily identifiable. Their “mane” and rounded, slightly tufted ears are quite different from other cats. Their fur can range in color from a reddish brown to a more golden yellow. They are trimmed with black spots along their sides and sometimes their underbellies.
Unlike many wild animals, male bobcats are by no means monogamous and wander from mate to mate. They are also very independent and rather lazy and do not tend to their young, leaving the females to do the work.
Not particularly fond of living in close proximity to humans, they are often found building their dens for long-term use in protected caves, under ledges and in old deadfall trees.
Although sightings are rare, the cats are most often active at dusk and dawn and prefer rabbits as their main food source but have been known to eat other prey such as rodents of all types, skunks and old or infirm deer.
Prior to 1968, it was open season on bobcats. As their importance in the health of the environment grew, however, efforts were made to protect them from over hunting. There is currently a limit of 50 cats per year that may be taken through hunting, and the state monitors the hunting season carefully.
“The rarity of the animal, its condition and its beauty, make it a perfect specimen,” Carver Sportsmen’s Club President Paul Johnson said. “It can be used for educational purposes and to enlighten people who have never seen a bobcat. If it’s used in this way, its tragic end will serve a greater purpose.”
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org