North America is home to six species of wild cat including the bobcat, lynx, ocelot, mountain lion, jaguar, and jaguarundi. When you narrow it down even further, you will notice that there are not a wide variety of wild cat species within the United States.
In this article, we are going to set our sights on the state of Oklahoma, which is home to two different but very elusive species of wild cats. Let’s take a closer look.
The 2 Types of Wild Cats in Oklahoma
The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is approximately twice the size of an average housecat and is found in every contiguous state within the nation, except for Delaware. They are very widespread throughout the state of Oklahoma, being found in every county. Their numbers are plentiful, but these elusive creatures are rarely ever seen by humans.
|Size:||26 to 41 inches (Body) 4 to 7 inches (Tail)|
|Weight:||11 to 30 pounds|
|Lifespan:||10 to 12 years|
Bobcats get their name from their distinct, bobbed black-tipped tails. They have a variable, soft coat that ranges from grayish brown to brownish red with spotted patterning. They have dark bars on their forelegs and a white underbelly. They have massive paws, considering their size and they bear a striking resemblance to their relative, the Canadian lynx, especially with their similar tufted ears.
Like all cats, Bobcats are obligate carnivores. In Oklahoma, their diet is made up of stealthy and patient hunters that can run up to 30 miles per hour and pounce up to 10 feet. In Oklahoma, their diet is made up of squirrels, rabbits, rodents, birds, and any small prey they can catch. They are patient, stealthy hunters that can take down much larger prey, like whitetail deer.
Habitat and Behavior
Bobcats are found throughout the entire continent of North America. They are built for the forest habitat but are highly adaptable but can easily make their home in swamplands, and deserts, and have been known to quietly wander into more suburban areas.
Bobcats are very elusive and tend to stay far away from humans. They are rarely ever seen, even considering their large population. They are most active during dawn and dusk while out hunting for prey. They are solitary cats that only come together during mating season.
2. Mountain Lion
Mountain lions (Puma concolor,) are also called cougars, pumas, and panthers. Its range extends from North America to South America. These cats once inhabited the entire contiguous United States until their populations were decimated after European settlers began hunting them down along with other large predators like wolves, and bears. Mountain lions do not have an established breeding population in Oklahoma and like the bobcat, are highly elusive. They are not listed as an official native species to the state, but sightings do happen from time to time.
|Size:||6 – 8 feet|
|Weight:||130-150 pounds (Male), 65-90 pounds (Female)|
Mountain lions have beige to tawny-colored coats with a white to whitish-gray underbelly. Their body size varies depending on their geographical location, but males typically weigh between 130 and 150 pounds, and females between 65 and 90 pounds.
These cats have long, heavy tails that take up about one-third of their overall body length. They have amber-colored eyes, and their head is smaller in proportion to their body size. They have massive paws and very long legs.
The primary food source for mountain lions is deer, but they will also hunt other prey including rabbits, turkeys, raccoons, squirrels, and more. They have been observed hunting elk, but they are very rare within the state and only found in the far western portion.
The white-tail deer is their main food source within this state since they are found throughout, Oklahoma also has a population of mule deer but like elk, are only found in the western portion of the state.
Habitat and Behavior
Mountain lions are very adaptable and thrive in a wide variety of habitats and terrains. In North America, they are mostly seen in the mountains but can be found wherever their prey is present. Populations of mountain lions are noted in deserts, mountains, lowlands, mangrove forests, deciduous forests, canyons, and prairies.
Mountain lions are another cat that likes to remain elusive and is rarely ever seen. Their numbers are much smaller than the bobcat. They vocalize by growling, hissing, shrieking, and purring since they are unable to roar like your typical wild cats
Like bobcats, they are also solitary animals that are most active during dawn and dusk. They are stealthy hunters that typically stalk their prey from behind. The average mountain lion can run up to 50 miles per hour and their muscular hind legs allow them to leap up to 45 feet.
Mountain Lions in Oklahoma
Oklahoma and all 48 of the contiguous states in the United States used to be prime mountain lion territory. During the 19th century settlement, mountain lions were eradicated within the state of Oklahoma because of hunting and habitat destruction.
Settlers frequently shot and killed large predators that were deemed threats to themselves and their livestock. The population of deer was also decimated during this time, which was their primary food source. Small populations of mountain lions remained in the western United States, while the Eastern United states populations were entirely wiped out except for the Florida panther.
There have been plenty of sightings and solid evidence of mountain lions within the state of Oklahoma since the 1800s. Local biologists document any sightings or other findings to keep track of the cats. While there are hundreds of reported sightings, they do require concrete physical evidence that the species in question is in fact, a mountain lion.
Since 2002, there have been over 50 confirmed sightings of mountain lions throughout the state. Because Oklahoma still has no evidence of a viable breeding population of these cats within state lines. Confirmation most often comes from camera footage, mountain lions being struck and killed on the roadways, and hair samples.
Oklahoma may have two species of wild cats that are found within the state boundaries, but both cats are extremely elusive and hardly ever seen by people. Bobcats are very abundant and found all over the state, while mountain lions are much rarer, with only occasional confirmed sightings.
Featured Image: outdoorsman, Shutterstock