Everyone is a cat person – one simply needs to learn a few facts about the Columbia Valley’s local wild cat species to find the love.
Let’s play a True or False game to uncover some of our favourite facts.
T or F: Each of the Rocky Mountain wildcats has a hunting specialty.
Cougars are well known for their skills in taking down deer, lynx are specialized to feed on snowshoe hares, and the stealthy bobcat is more opportunistic including many types of small animals.
T or F: Bobcat and Lynx are virtually the same.
Sure the bobcat evolved from a species of lynx, but while the two cats belong to the same genus (Lynx) they have evolved to some major differences.
For one, they have adapted to dissimilar habitats. Lynx favour dense forests where bobcats prefer areas with less snowy terrain.
Perhaps the most visually obvious differences is the much larger paws and longer hind legs of the lynx (they really are ridiculous looking).
It can be perplexing to find a lynx’ huge paw prints on top of the snow – “how does such a large animal stay on top of the snow?”
If you’ve ever walked in deep snow with snowshoes, you know exactly how they do it. Larger surface area equals wider weight distribution – their huge furry paws help them stay on top of the snow.
Why such big paws? Lynx are perfectly adapted to live where the snowshoe hare live and go where the snowshoe hare go, as hares are a lynx’ main source of food.
T or F: Cougars kill many people each year.
Answer: False (phew!)
You are 7,000 times more likely to die from a vehicle crash than by a cougar. Bees are also statistically more dangerous than cougars.
Do, however, play it safe and keep young children close and dogs on leash (as children and dogs tend to look more like prey to cougars).
T or F: If a cougar attacks, play dead or run.
We’ve already established that this is pretty much guaranteed never going to happen, but if it does… never play dead, never run.
In the most UNLIKELY event that a cougar does attack you or someone you’re with – fight back, be aggressive and look as big as possible. Go for the eyes.
Remember, bees are statistically more dangerous than cougars. Try to not let your imagination run away with you while on the trail – but like wearing your seat belt in a car, it’s always a good idea to be prepared.
T or F: A cornered bobcat is dangerous.
Most biologists agree that bobcats are more aggressive than lynx. All biologists agree that cornering any wild cat is a bad idea.
T or F: A cougar is larger than you.
Answer: Both are correct.
Depends on how tall you are. Cougars range from 5-8 feet in length.
T or F: Cougars can kill porcupines.
But not all of them are good at it. In one study, researchers found porcupine quills in more than a third of the cougars they examined. That’s a painful lesson.
T or F: The other name for cougar is mountain lion.
Answer: Mostly true
Settlers used many different names: catamount (“cat of the mountain”), panther, puma, mountain lion and cougar. No matter the name, most chose to kill the animal.
T or F: Lynx are dependent on snowshoe hares.
When comparing line graphs of the population over time of both lynx and snowshoe hare, the synchronized fluctuation of both populations is astonishing. This is a classic example of how a specialist predator and its prey can influence the population dynamics of the two species.
When hares are abundant, many lynx will mate and reproduce. When hares are scarce, virtually none do.
When hares are too abundant, their population reaches a density that causes changes to the environment. For example, overgrazing of willow trees causes the trees to produce significantly greater concentrations of toxic chemicals that deter feeding by snowshoe hares and thus there is no food to eat and the hare population declines.
T or F: Cougars mate for life.
There’s no messing around – when the deed is done (including multiple deeds that may take an entire day), it’s time to move on.
While the female is left to bare all the kitten rearing, it is likely preferred as males will kill kittens if given the chance.
T or F: Wild cats are rulers of the natural world.
Their strength, incredible adaptations and beauty showcase wild cats as the royalty of the wilderness and sit them on top of the food pyramid. However, humans remain a great threat to their future.
Habitat loss, hunting, forest fires, roads and other human influences continue to add risk to their population.
T or F: All humans can be cat lovers.
Answer: After reading these cool facts, we hope you are!