By: Cholla Nicoll, BRN Wildlife Intern
One of the most amazing and diverse families lives right here in our local environment, and sometimes even our home. This family consists of 38 different species, the smallest of which is the domestic house cat (Felis catus). Cats have captivated humanity as far back as records exist. Cultures all over the world have revered cats for their power, beauty and mysterious ways. Luckily for us, four different species of wild cats make their homes right here in Southeastern Arizona. The Mountain Lion (Felis concolor) and Bobcat (Felis rufus) are commonly found here, while the Jaguar (Felis onca) and Ocelot (Felis pardalis) are considered endangered and rarely seen.
All cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that their bodies require certain nutrients that can only be acquired through eating meat. Large cats like mountain lions eat approximately one deer every two weeks, or smaller animals more frequently if deer are not present. Since large cats require large meals their presence often indicates an abundant ecosystem.
Mountain Lions travel great distances to meet their caloric requirements and their territory can easily encompass 20 square miles. Protecting non-endangered cats, like mountain lions, is vital because it also protects a large habitat containing many different plants and animals. To learn more about mountain lions and how to safely coexist with them please visit Mountain Lion Foundation.
As elusive as our feline friends can be, we do frequently find tracks and scat indicating their presence at the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve. Occasionally we are lucky enough to capture a picture of a cat on our wildlife cameras like this mountain lion image from last fall. These beautiful predators help maintain the balance of wildlife in our area and still strike up a feeling of awe in the lucky few who catch a glimpse of them in their natural surroundings.
In celebration of our local wild cats, Borderlands Restoration Network in collaboration with the Patagonia Creative Arts Association will be holding a wild cat drawing contest for local elementary-aged students. This contest will take place in September and the winners will have their art featured on one of the trail signs located within the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve.
Be on the lookout for more details as September approaches!
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