While hiking in Ash Creek Wildlife Area (Modoc County CA) Leonard and I realized a bobcat (Lynx rufus) was watching us. This was the first time we ever saw a bobcat in the Wildlife Area. Bobcats have the greatest range of all the North American felines. However, because they are very secretive and hunt mainly at night, they are not often seen. We kept walking along the trail toward the bobcat. Eventually it stood and ambled off. It definitely was not overly concerned about us.
In addition to their “bobbed” tail, bobcats have distinctive ear tufts, fur growing from the tips of the ears. The most common reasons given for ear tufts are that they help hearing by directing sound into the ears, they help the bobcat detect things above them and ear tufts help keep debris out of the ears. I recently read another theory, ear tufts are used in communication. There is some evidence that by “flipping” their ears bobcats can communicate with other bobcats. For example: one ear being flipped may mean that I see and recognize you. Tufts add size to the ear and make it easier to see the ear and the signals being sent. There does not appear to be a definitive answer for the existence of ear tufts. But the idea that the ear tufts may aid in communication is interesting.
Leonard and I were delighted to see a bobcat in an area where we never saw them before.