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Mississippi State University

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Diet


Results

We used 591 bobcat scat collected from 1992-1997 to determine dietary patterns. White-tailed deer comprised the highest biomass of prey consumed, whereas, rabbits and cottonrats dominated percentage of scat and occurred most frequently. Occurrence of deer, rabbits, cottonrats, and mice did not differ between seasons. Similarly, occurrence of deer did not vary with year. However, occurrence of rabbits, cottonrats, and mice differed with year.

Summary

Our data concurs with previous studies indicating that rodents (mice and cottonrats), rabbits, and deer most frequently occur in bobcat diets. Bobcats may depredate white-tailed deer fawns and felids in general will readily scavenge carcasses when available. Previous researchers have suggested that increasing occurrences of deer during fall-winter periods were likely bobcats scavenging deer carcasses, rather than directly taking deer. Given the temporal distribution of deer occurrence within scat of (peaked during August and January), our data supports contentions that much deer consumption during fall-winter is indeed carrion.

Previous research has reported that deer occurred more frequently in bobcat diets when rabbit and cottonrat populations were depressed. Our data indicate that occurrence of deer was consistent across years, suggesting that deer are a consistently important prey item of bobcats on TWMA and GP. Indeed, deer flesh provides more energy and nitrogen to bobcats than cottonrats or rabbits. Thus, energetically it may be advantageous for bobcats to consume deer consistently in the presence of other prey items, particularly females following depletion of body reserves post-partum and lactation during summer. The percentage of scat and occurrence of deer consistently equaled or exceeded that of mice in bobcat scat, further supporting the importance of deer in bobcat diet on TWMA and GP.

Management Implications

Bobcats on TWMA and GP displayed strong carnivory, preying primarily on mammalian species Bobcats consistently consumed white-tailed deer throughout the study, indicating the importance of deer as a prey item. However, based on harvest information, white-tailed deer populations did not decline during the study. If increasing occurrence of deer in fall-winter diets is a function of increased availability of carrion, bobcat consumption of deer may be a direct function of hunter harvest.