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Tracking Bobcats

3-27-17 bobcat tracks IMG_1846Stella, our recent Nor’easter, extended the window snow provides into the lives of our four-footed neighbors, so we are privy to their comings and goings for a few more days, at least. February and March are prime breeding season for many creatures, among them the Bobcat. Males are polygynous – they mate with as many receptive females as they can find – and so they are on the move, leaving tracks in the snow. Prior to mating, a pair of Bobcats spends a considerable amount of time running, playing, and hunting together, so finding tracks of two Bobcats is not that unusual this time of year.

Usually four of a Bobcat’s five toes make an impression. They are asymmetrically arranged and oval or tear-drop in shape. The leading edge of the heel impression is two-lobed, while the bottom edge is three-lobed. In deep snow, or when stalking or walking on a muddy surface, a Bobcat’s tracks will show a “direct register,” with the hind feet placed directly in the impressions made by the front feet, leaving a relatively straight trail of single tracks (see photo).

Many tracking books state that dog tracks have nail marks and that cat tracks lack them. While this is true a majority of the time, this is not always the case for either group. If a cat’s nails do happen to register, they will make a narrow slit mark in snow or mud, whereas dog nails are wider and more blunt.

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6 responses

  1. Penny DeGeorges

    I wish we’d been privvy information to this yesterday! >

    March 27, 2017 at 9:13 am

  2. Jim Russell

    Same storm. Bob on a log🤓 Jim Russell MD 802. 236. 8153


    March 27, 2017 at 9:20 am

  3. Cheron barton

    Hopefully snow is MIA!! Have a good day!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    March 27, 2017 at 9:48 am

  4. I thoroughly enjoy your posts, Mary, but the latest close up labeled as a bobcat track appears very much to be a canid track – shape, toe array, plantar pad, canid “X” – I can’t speak to the long shot of the trail, but I suggest the CU might instead be from a fox.

    March 27, 2017 at 11:23 am

    • Hi Bruce, I see exactly why you think this is a fox track, but I it really is a bobcat’s. I tracked it for hours with another naturalist known for his tracking ability, and there was no question as to its identity (it urine-marked, which cannot be mistaken for a canid). The feline characteristics that the track illustrates include: tear drop-shaped toe impressions (canid rear toe inside edges are pointed), the bottom edges of the 3 lobes of the metacarpal pad are in straight alignment (in canids the bottom edge of the middle lobe is higher). It does look like you can draw an “X” between the pads, but that is only because the top of the metacarpal pad did not register. In addition, the track has a “hair halo” around it, typical of cat tracks, but I cropped most of it out of the photo — I should have used another photograph, I realize! While it comes close to resembling a gray fox’s track, a red fox has much more hair on its feet and the toe pads are not usually as distinct as these are. Hope I’ve convinced you. Good for you for realizing this was a close call!

      March 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm

      • I respectfully concede your points, Mary, thank you. A tricky track and good quiz for future classes.

        March 29, 2017 at 12:35 pm

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