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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bobcat dissection at FLCC

Bobcats are becoming more common in our neck of the woods and when a fresh roadkill showed up nearby this summer, the DEC offered to let me dissect it with my classes (as long as I retained a tooth for aging). I set the date for this past Tuesday in order to correspond with the Felidae lecture in CON 102. For a more complete treatment of bobcat tracks, see my previous post here.

The dissection was done as an activity for the FLCC Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society. Alyssa Johnson, current president, has agreed to create a sister post on her blog here.
Road killed bobcat from Howard, NY
Thirty-five students showed up along with Clinton Krager, a Biology Professor. We started with a look at the external anatomy. I asked the students to guess the weight. Most of us were a bit high in our estimate. She weighed 17 pounds. That is not a bad weight for a cat around here. I give my students three external characteristics to tell a bobcat from a lynx. In each case, the bobcat and the lynx share the characteristic but the lynx has more. For example, on the photo to the right you can see "sideburns". A lynx also has these facial tufts, but they are more pronounced.

Next, look at these ear tufts. Bob has them, but lynx has more.... On a bobcat they tend to be small (these are really small). On a lynx, they are much longer.
Bobcat ear tuft
Finally, examine the tail tip. Bob has black on his tail, but lynx has more. The bobcat tail is half black and half white. The lynx has a tail tip that is completely black.
Bobcat tail showing black and white tip

We then examined the feet. Cats have five toes on their front feet, but only four show up in the track. The other toe is higher up and often called the dew claw. It is functional though -- they can distend it when capturing prey.
Front feet of a bobcat
The rear feet show no such toe. They are smaller than the front feet. Check out the distinctive toes and foot pad.
Hind foot of a bobcat
It was a great experience for students and faculty alike. We all agreed we should do this more often. Now, click here for more photos and the "inside story", head over to Bearly Alyssa

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