The Bobcat: Athletic, Fierce, & Hardworking

North Carolina Native Cat Ideal Representation for New NBA Franchise

Athletic, adaptable to varying climates and conditions, and deceptively powerful for its size, the bobcat (F. rufus) is the ideal representation for the National Basketball Association (NBA) expansion franchise Charlotte Bobcats, which unveiled its team name, logo and colors at a basketball street festival in Uptown Charlotte on June 11.

The identity of the Charlotte Bobcats will be much like their namesake. The team will be quick, agile, tenacious and aggressive. And, like the feline, the Charlotte Bobcats will be hard-working and fierce in attack.

“The Bobcat is a remarkable animal, able to survive changing conditions,” said Kate Pipkin, public information biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. “Bobcats will adjust their habits depending upon their surrounding environment, and they are experts at survival.”

Pipkin says it’s the animal’s ability to live in a variety of climates and to switch prey species when the preferred food source is unavailable that makes it the most widespread wild cat in North Carolina. Native to the area, it can be seen throughout the state, primarily in areas where there are dense thickets to provide cover. Slightly nocturnal and extremely elusive, they will even reside close to humans in areas such as suburban Charlotte, so long as suitable habitat and food exists.

Though their diet consists primarily of rabbits and rodents, bobcats can bring down animals as large as deer. Expert hunters, they quietly stalk to within a few feet of their prey before striking with a quick sprint or up to 10-foot pounce. And their jaws are so powerful they often kill their prey in one bite.

The bobcat’s voice is just as fierce as its bite. Some scientists report that the animal’s growl – distinctive and ferocious – can be so loud and intimidating that, when out of sight, it can be mistaken for a mountain lion. Fur coloration varies from light gray to yellowish brown to reddish brown and may include markings such as “tabby” stripes or spots.

Bobcats, named for their short, bobbed tails, have long hairs that resemble sideburns on each side of the face. But Pipkin says the most distinguishing characteristics to help identify bobcats are the pointed, tufted ears, with black fur near the tops.

“The ears are the best way to identify a bobcat,” she said. “The tail is short in comparison to other cats, but not as easily recognizable as the ears.”

Other physical attributes that help the cat in attack: binocular vision that enables it to focus on swiftly running prey; pupils that expand to take in all available light and enhance the animal’s ability to hunt at night; and claws, used for climbing and grasping, are retractable, providing the bobcat a form of natural “stealth technology” that allows it to quietly approach prey.

While bobcat attacks on people are extremely rare, Pipkin wouldn’t recommend approaching an animal in the wild.

“As a general rule, the species typically will size up the situation and walk in the other direction when approached by a potential predator as large as a person, but it is difficult to predict the behavior of any individual animal in the wild,” she said. “The only guaranteed places to view bobcats are zoos or other accredited wildlife facilities. And these locations are also the safest, as they keep patrons at a safe distance from the animals’ powerful jaws and sharp teeth and claws.”