Friday, November 26, 2010

Bobcat Melodies

Do you ever hear night time animal cries and wonder what made them?   Birds and mammals can make some scary sounds which are difficult to identify.
We were discussing sightings of bobcats while sitting around a fire at the Missouri Native Plant Society meeting last week.  Suddenly we heard distant haunting night sounds, a cross between a baby's cry and a screech owl.  Most of us guessed it was a bobcat cry.

According to Wikipedia, bobcats (Lynx rufus) are crepuscular, that is they are active in the hours around dawn and dusk.  This is a time that brings out certain species such as deer, rabbits, rodents, skunks, as well as many insects.
"The bobcat is crepuscular. It keeps on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight, and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise. Each night it will move from 2 to 7 miles (3.2 to 11 km) along its habitual route.[13] This behavior may vary seasonally, as bobcats become more diurnal (active during the day) during fall and winter. This is a response to the activity of their prey, which are more active during the day in colder months.[12]
Was it a bobcat?  Who knows?  Cats have a wide variety of vocalizations (think Tabby's meow, hissing at the dog, and mating cats under your window at night.)  It turns out that bobcats are also versatile vocalizers.
There is some help on animal sounds available on the Web.  Many sites like junglewalk.com and thryomanes are geared to exotic animals from around the world.  An extensive library of audio and video can be found at macaulaylibrary.org.  I was not successful in finding a single source for North American mammal sounds.  Let me know if you can find a good source. I did find a variety of bobcat vocalizations at http://www.soundboard.com/category/Science-Nature.aspx.  From now on, I will probably think every nocturnal muffled scream is a bobcat until proven otherwise.

You can read this Missouri Conservationist  article on bobcats from the May issue.

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