Tuesday 11 March 2008

American Bobcat's Ears

American Bobcat
Bobcat up a tree resting

The American Bobcat's ears are a little bit special. This medium sized (30-35 lbs) wild cat has been in the local news again. There are about 750,000 in the US apparently. As usual they have been hunted and are, as a result, wary of humans. They are solitary and night hunters as is the case for many wild cats (the Scottish Wildcat for one).

However, on this occasion an American Bobcat was found in someones garden in Fort Smith, Arkansas, minding his/her own business. Just resting up, it seems. The police were called and the cat was tranquillized and returned to the wild. Slight overreaction? Not sure. But if she was not harming anyone and they generally keep clear of humans, why not just leave the cat alone and see if we can live in harmony with our wild fellow creatures? I guess that would be considered too dangerous. Mankind has great difficulty living in harmony with fellow creatures. Why is it so dysfunctional?

Anyway, the American Bobcat has white spots on the back of his ears. You can see one on the back of the left ear in the photograph heading this page. The photograph is copyright The Lilac Breasted Roller and reproduced under creative commons. It was taken in Eagle County near Vail, Colorado.

The spots are called Ocelli, false eyes, night eyes. They are found on a variety of animals and insects (butterflies). They are designed to give the impression that a predator is being looked at by the cat. I guess it's an extra pair of eyes albeit false. They would also confuse another animal.

The American Bobcat's ears can swivel very effectively (all cats have very flexible ear flaps). The spots can almost face forward when this cat is facing off another animal. She is therefore presenting a more frightening "image" to hostile action from another animal. An effective tool in survival.

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