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The Four Wildcats of North America

Updated on November 11, 2016

Learn more about the wildcats of North America.

North America is home to four species of wildcats. The Bobcat, Lynx, Ocelot and the Puma or Cougar are considered native to North America. With more and more of their natural habitat disappearing, wildcats, as well as many other types of wildlife, are coming in closer contact with man. Learn more about the wildcats of North America.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

The bobcat is the most commonly known wildcat in North America.
The bobcat is the most commonly known wildcat in North America. | Source

Bobcat

The Bobcat is the most commonly known wildcat in North America. He is also the only species of wildcat that is not currently on the endangered list. The Bobcat and the Canadian Lynx are sometimes though of as the same animal. They are both of the same family but different species. The Bobcat is about twice the size of the average house cat. They have long legs, large paws and tufted ears. They get their name from the short, black-tipped tail which appears to be “bobbed” or cut off. The “tufts” of their ears are actually used like hearing aids and they have excellent eyesight.

With 12 subspecies, the bobcat ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico. At one time the Bobcat’s territory was wide spread over the US, however, their number have decreased over the years. Bobcats are nocturnal animals and are rarely seen by humans. They inhabit woodlands, forest areas, swamp lands as well as some semi-arid areas. The Bobcats diet consists of rabbits, mice, squirrels, reptiles and fowl, including the farmer’s chickens. They are many times regarded as a nuisance and are shot by farmers. Many hunters will also kill a Bobcat as they eat the quail, pheasant and chukka that many hunters shoot for sport.

Bobcat in Arizona

Lynx (Felis lynx)

The Canada Lynx
The Canada Lynx | Source

Lynx

The lynx is actually the bobcats “cold weather” cousin. They are actually several species of lynx. The Asian and European lynx are larger that the North American species, the Canada lynx. The Canada lynx are generally found in Canada and the colder parts of the US. They inhabit mainly forest and tundra regions.

The Canada lynx is about the same size as the bobcat and has tufted ears and a bobbed tail as well. The tail of the lynx however, is tipped in black. The lynx has more hair than the bobcat especially around the face and feet to keep them warmer in the colder climate. Their feet are used as “snow shoes” and are larger and have more hair for added insulation from the cold and snow.

The Canada lynx diet consists mainly of snowshoe hares. There is a correlation between the number of snowshoe hares and the population of lynx. As the number of snowshoe hares decline, so do the number of lynx. The larger Eurasian lynx will hunt deer as well as smaller animals.

Canada Lynx in the Snow

Ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

The ocelot is sometimes called the painted leopard.
The ocelot is sometimes called the painted leopard. | Source

Ocelot

The ocelot is sometimes called the “Painted Leopard” or "Dwarf Leopard". At one time they could be found throughout the southwestern parts of the US. However due to their beautifully spotted fur, they have been illegally hung to the point that their numbers have been greatly reduced and has placed them on the endangered list. Occasionally you will see the ocelot in Arizona or extreme southern parts of Texas. They are most commonly seen in Mexico and northern parts of South America. They are primarily nocturnal, solitary animals.

The ocelot has short tawny or reddish brown fur with black spots and rosette shaped markings. Their face has two black stripes down each side and their tail has black bands. They weight between 18 to 40 pounds and are 27 to 39 inches in length not including their tail which is between 10 to 18 inches in length. They can be found in the trees, stalking monkeys and birds. They also eat small mammals and rodents, frogs, fish and some reptiles. Unlike most other cats, they don’t mind the water and can swim very well.

Mountain Lion (Felis concolor)

Mountain lion, on a stroll.
Mountain lion, on a stroll. | Source

Mountain Lion

The mountain lion goes by several names. He is also knows as puma, cougar, catamount, and panther. The mountain lion is a powerful and feared predator. They are found mainly in the eastern and southern parts of the US, including the swamps of Florida. Mountain lions are beautiful animals with a tawny colored coat with no markings. Mountain lions weigh approximately 120-140 pounds, although they are large with many characteristics of the "big cats", they are considered to be the largest of the "small cat" family.

Mountain lions prefer to prey on deer but will also attack and eat coyotes and other mammals such as raccoons and porcupines. Their range has been eliminated in the Midwest and Eastern US, although there have been some reported sightings in Oregon and Washington state. There are small populations returning the states such as Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas as well.

Mountain lions have been known to attack humans. However, statistics show that on average there are only 4 attacks and 1 death each year in all of the US and Canada. Mountain lions will be more likely to attack a person who is alone or a small child.


Few people will actually come in contact with any of these wildcats in their natural habitat, but at least now you know a little more about these wonderful wildcats of North America.

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      Aaron 7 hours ago

      What about jaguars? Several sighted in Arizona, common in Mexico

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      Kylun 4 months ago

      this article is very informative and very trustworthy. thank you sgbrown for this article

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 22 months ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you Taranwanderer. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

    • Taranwanderer profile image

      Taranwanderer 22 months ago

      Very informative hub on the more obscure cats of the family Felidae. Most people are only familiar with the tiger, leopard, jaguar, cheetah and lion. https://hubpages.com/education/Wild-Cats-Facts-Abo...

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Very informative page, Sheila. I do get to see a Ferrell, Puma and Bobcat around here on occasion. They tend to stay clear of humans, and that is probably smart on their part. Voted up!

    • poetryman6969 profile image

      poetryman6969 2 years ago

      I had a bobcat walk through my garden the other morning. It was surprisingly small but you could not mistake it for a common house cat though it was not much larger. The ears are quite different and it goes about hunting in a no nonsense way.

      Most house cats I have seen wonder when you are going to do something useful like feed them. Else, get lost.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Indian Chef! Tigers are one of my favorites too. Of the four wildcats in North America, we have many bobcats around where I live. I have seen several of them here on our place. Now people are saying that they are seeing the Mountain Lion around here also, this scares me a little as they are excellent hunters and very large. I go walking in the woods by myself quite often, this may be becoming dangerous now. There was another reported sighting of a mountain lion just a few miles from us last week. I would love to see one, but from afar! Thank you for stopping by and I appreciate your kind words and support! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 3 years ago from New Delhi India

      Hi Mrs Brown, I like big cats and tigers are my fav. I like lions too. Out of 4 you mentioned I like mountain lion. The cats are supreme predators, from their eyes to their toes to their tail, everything looks like made for the hunt. Very good hub. Voting it up and sharing here.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Gus! Usually feral cats don't get that large. Maybe it was a cross between a feral cat and a bobcat, I don't know. I DO know what words would have come out of my mouth and I bet they were about the same! LOL Thanks for the visit and the story, it was a good one! :)

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 3 years ago from USA

      Howdy Sheila (sgbrown) -

      One time we lived on a cattle farm where there stood a big barn. We used to go inside the barn to shoot rats, of which there were a gazillion. On one such visit to the barn I heard a loud screeching yowl from what was surely a big (BIG) cat. I looked up at the hayloft and there it was - BIG - but it was a domestic cat, white and black fur and the usual house cat look but for its huge size. I did not say, "Hi kitty, kitty." I said, " See you some other time..." and maybe a few other good words that come to mind at times like that. :-)

      Gus :-)))

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Peggy! I have to say that I would love to see a cougar in the wild, but I would be soooo SCARED at the same time. It's probably a good thing that there were more people than just the two of you. I bet that was an amazing experience! Thanks for stopping in and the votes and share! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Sheila,

      This was a fascinating look at the wildcats of North America. The only one that I have ever seen in the wild was in Yosemite National Park. My German girlfriend and I were hiking along a path and another person actually spotted the head and shoulders of a cougar behind a rock not that far away from the path. His coloration blended in perfectly with the colors of the rock and he was motionless. We paused a moment to look at him as did others on the path...and suddenly he disappeared from view. It was an amazing experience. UUI votes and sharing.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello adh071185! The only wild cat I have actually seen in the wild, so far, is the bobcat. I did get to see one crossing the back of our place a few years ago. It was very exciting! My husband has seen many of them, when he deer hunts out back. I would love to see more! Thank you for your kind comment and welcome to HubPages. I look forward to see you publish some hubs here! :)

    • adh071185 profile image

      Aaron 4 years ago from Southern United States

      A very interesting hub with good facts. As an avid hiker and backpacker I have had occasion to encounter a few of these animals and believe me you never forget the experience.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Indian Chef! I love the "big cats". They are all so beautiful and majestic! I would have loved to see the Asiatic Lion! Thank you for your kind words and comment. Have a wonderful day! :)

    • Indian Chef profile image

      Indian Chef 4 years ago from New Delhi India

      Wonderful Hub. I come from India which is home of big cats and I love cats. Usually our cats ( domestic or simple cats not big cats) are not big. But big cats like tiger and lions and cheetas are wonderful. I went to Gir National park and I saw an Asiatic Lion there sitting in open. It was such a magnificient site.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello DDE! Thank you for stopping by and commenting, it is always appreciated! :)

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Incredible cats their color and patterns are unique, you informed me correctly

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello FullOfLoveSites! I would love to do the same thing! I would love to have an ocelot too! They are just about the right size! Thanks for stopping in and commenting! It is always appreciated! :)

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image

      FullOfLoveSites 4 years ago from United States

      I wish I could make any of these gorgeous wild cats a pet and a guard cat at the same time. The ocelot is cute!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hi Terrye! I would have loved to see that mountain lion. As long as it wasn't too up close! :) Thank you for stopping in, commenting and voting! Have a beautiful day! :)

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      Terrye Toombs 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

      Fantastic hub, SG! I actually saw a mountain lion in an orchard in Visalia, CA in 2002. I was shocked and amazed! It was huge! :) Loved all the information in this. Voted up and more.

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Jenn-Anne! I have seen two bobcats, at different times, walk across our backyard before. It was awesome! One of my sons was sitting in a tree stand deer hunting one morning when he looked around and saw a bobcat watching him from the tree next to him. He said he nearly fell out of the tree! The bobcat just jumped down and walked off. He will never forget that! Thanks for stopping in and the vote up! Have a great day! :)

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      Jenn-Anne 4 years ago

      What beautiful animals! I saw a bobcat once many years ago. It was along the side of the road and slipped into the woods as I drove by. I only caught a fleeting glimpse but I've never forgotten it. Informative hub. Voted up!

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello RTalloni! I love wildcats. I have had to be reminded that they are wild creatures as well. The bobcats around here do keep the mice and field rat population down, but they also eat the quail that is trying to make a come back here. Of course, hubby would never shoot one of them, it's more of a "let nature take it's course" thing. No one I know personally has ever seen a mountain lion around here, so I am not sure there are any. I have never seen any tracks either. I would really hate to have to stop taking my walks alone in the woods.

      Thank you for your kind words! Hub hugs back to you, my friend! :)

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Sure enjoyed seeing these cats highlighted here--such beautiful creatures they are! Seeing them move and watching their alert eyes in the videos was pure joy. I am one who would have to be reminded that they are wild animals, and predators at that.

      The fact that big cats help keep the rodent population down, and even help with the coyote population makes them invaluable. The rodents and coyotes can do a great deal of damage as well as carry diseases via fleas and ticks that kill other animals and people.

      Though I'm sure there are hunters who kill some of these cats, the hunters I know would not do so unless they were attacked by one, which is very unlikely. Farmers are a different story but they generally only protect their families and farm animals from predators, though I am sure that some go sadly beyond the need to do so.

      The information you've shared is interesting--an enjoyable hub here, thanks!

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello again mperrottet! :) I have seen 2 bobcats here where I live in Oklahoma, but my husband has seen many. I expected them to be a bit bigger myself, but they are about the size of a very large house cat. They are really beautiful too! Yes, the Florida Panther is on the endangered list. Now that is just the "Florida Panther", not the cougar/puma that is found in other parts of the US. Thank you for visiting my hubs. I appreciated your comments and votes! Again, have a wonderful Thanksgiving and be safe if you travel! :)

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Interesting, informative hub. I've seen lots of wildlife, but never a wildcat. I didn't realize that bobcats were so small. I was wondering - is the Florida panther endangered also? Great hub - voted up and interesting.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Sharkye11! I apologize for the delay in replying to your comment here. I have had some computer issues today. Hopefully have them resolved now. I have seen bobcats in my backyard, but never a mountain lion! Actually, that would scare the hell out of me! You need to write a hub about that, I would love to hear all about it! Thank you for stopping in, reading and your great comment here! Have a great day and stay away from the mountain lions, PLEASE! :)

    • Sharkye11 profile image

      Jayme Kinsey 4 years ago from Oklahoma

      I have never seen an ocelot in person. I have had the honor to see the others, (the lynx was in a zoo, the bobcat and mountain lion were up close and personal in my backyard!) I love the pictures in this hub! Voting up and more!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Thank you bravewarrior! It is so sad that our wildcats are being hunted for financial gain. I have never heard of anyone hunting wildcats for food. Some people just don't care, all they think about is money. I'm glad your enjoyed my hub and I thank you for your wonderful comment! Have a wonderful day! :)

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      Shauna L Bowling 4 years ago from Central Florida

      Shiela, what an amazing, although sad hub! I have always been fascinated by wildcats. This is probably why I'm a cat lover and prefer them to dogs (I have 3 cats). It is so sad to see what is happening to this majectic animal. They are being hunted for pure sport and financial gain. Not one of these videos mentioned hunting them for food.

      We still have a few cougars, sometimes called Florida Panthers, living in the Everglades. It's a shame what Man is doing to Nature's cycle.

      I found it rather fascinating to learn the difference between 'lesser' cats and the larger lions, tigers, etc. I was unaware of the purring versus roaring capabilities.

      Thank you for this most informative article. The videos were a nice learning tool, as well.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Larry. I have heard that the cougar are getting into areas that either they are new to or their presence just hasn't been documented yet. They say that we don't have cougars in my area, buy several people have reported seeing them. Thank you for useful comment, I will try to incorporate your information into my hub. Have a great day! :)

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      Larry Arseneau 4 years ago

      Don't know how much u have researched but there are many

      Cougar in both Oregon and Washinton. I have seen several

      during my many years of hunting and roaming the woods...

      Larry

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello tsadjatko! No, I didn't know about the Pixiebobs. That is very interestesting! I had not heard of the Bengal cats either. This information would make a great hub. You know more about these new species than I and it is your idea, maybe you should write the hub on this. :) I would be excited to read it! Thank you so much for stopping in and reading and leaving such wonderful and informational comment! :)

    • tsadjatko profile image

      TSAD 4 years ago from maybe (the guy or girl) next door

      Great and interesting hub. Did you know they have crossed Bobcats with domestic cats and developed a domestic breed called Pixiebobs? This is also what they've done with the Serval to create Savanah Cats and the Asian Leopard Cat to give a very popular domestic spotted breed called Bengal cats. A hub on those three breeds would be very interesting and beautiful.

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Mary! I was replying to your kind comment and I'm not sure what happened, but everything disappeared. I just want you to know how much I appreciarte your kind words and all your support. Thank for your votes and share! Have a wonderful day! :)

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Au fait! I love wild cats too. We have bob cats here, but I have only seen one twice. One of my sons was sitting in a tree stand during deer season and heard something move close by. When he looked in the tree beside hime, there sat a bob cat. Scared the crap out of him! He was afraid to move. The bob cat jumped down and just walked off. Me and his dad couldn't help but laugh. Thank you for stopping in and leaving such an interesting comment. I enjoyed it! Thank you for the votes and share too! Have a wonderful day! :)

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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Sheila. I have always loved these cats. We actually had a Bobcat sighted nearby last week. He/she was just beautiful. Would love to see an Ocelot. Great job. VU, sharing, etc.

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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Wonderful information on some of the most beautiful cats. How sad they, like so many others, are being driven out. You did a stellar job of giving us so much information on each of them. I have to agree the ocelot is a beautiful cat!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

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      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      I love cats, especially wild cats. Where I grew up in central Wisconsin we had lynx and bobcats roaming around and sometimes they would scream at night and the hair would raise up on the back of your neck. The lynx especially, sounded just like a woman screaming as though her life were in danger.

      Excellent hub. Beautiful photos. Voted up, interesting, and shared!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Alastar! Thank you. I love animals and learning new things about them and then sharing that information. We have heard several stories about mountain lions being in our area, but I think that is mostly someone's imagination. I haven't heard of anyone finding any tracks or animals being found dead. I understand they are making a comeback and I am very glad. I hate to see any animals on the verge of extinction. I would personally love to see an ocelot in the wild. Thank you for stopping in and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a great day! :)

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Very fine compilation on the cats, Shelia. Cool vids too. The mountain lions are making a comeback in many places they were once thought extinct. Many sightings and evidence from right here in N.C. and elsewhere in the south. Anyway all these beautiful creatures deserve and belong in what nature is left to them.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Grandmapearl! Thank you for your kind comment! Yes, please be careful when walking in the woods. You really need to take someone with you, or at least a large dog. I am going to worry about you now! Thanks for stopping in and all your support, I really appreciate you! :)

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      Connie Smith 4 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Hi sgbrown! This is a very informative and interesting article. I particularly love the ocelot. What a beautiful animal.

      Not too long ago, a few mountain lions were introduced into the nearby area because of the large deer population. As a result, I keep a sharp eye out when I'm walking in the woods!

      Voted this one Up, Useful, Interesting and Beautiful. Thanks for sharing all this good info!

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello AliciaC! You are very welcome. I am glad you enjoyed my hub. I love anything to do with animals and nature. Thank you for your kind words! Have a wonderful day! :)

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      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for all the information and for sharing the beautiful photos and videos, sgbrown. These cats are fascinating animals! Your hub is informative and very enjoyable.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Rachel! Thank you! I would not be surprised to see a mountain lion almost anywhere these days. Thank you for stopping in and commenting. I always enjoy hearing from you! Have a wonderful day! :)

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Eddy! Thank you for stopping in and commenting, it is always appreciated! Have a wonderful day too! :)

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      Rachel Koski 4 years ago from Minnesota

      Very cool hub! I could almost swear that I saw a mountain lion when I was a kid on a car ride from PA to Wisconsin. My father thought I was just sleepy, but boy I tell ya, this thing looked like a mountain lion! Guess it really couldn't have been :) Anyway, great hub!

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      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      An amazing hub and thank you for sharing.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • sgbrown profile image
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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Carol! I have seen 2 bobcats myself, here in Oklahoma. Housecats still have that natural wild instinct, don't they. I almost brought home a baby bobcat that was found alone in the wild one time. ( I wasn't the one that found it.) But at the time I lived in town and that would not have worked out well. Thank you for stopping in, commenting and voting. I always appreciate hearing from you!

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      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      I have seen a bobcat in Arizona. I look at my little housecats and know they have that wildness inbred somewhere. Watching them fight I know they do. This was very interesting and now I know where they all are. Voting up++++

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Hello Faith Reaper! Thank you for your kind words. I have also learned some things from "Dora". We watch her 3 days a week with our youngest granddaughter here! LOL I guess we are never to old to learn something new! Thank you for your comment and votes. I always love hearing from you! Have a blessed day! Oh and congratulations on your new grandchild! :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Oh what beautiful creatures and imagery you have here. I did not know of all of these except the mountain lion, cougar, and bobcat. I leanred of the puma, sad to say, while watching "Dora the Explorer" with my granddaughters. LOL The Ocelt is so very beautiful. Thanks for this excellent hub here. Voted up, up, up . . .

      God Bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      I have seen a bobcat in the wild, but not a cougar. But then, I don't live in "cougar" country. Some people say they have seen "panthers" in this area. I don't go walking in the country without a pistol anymore. I'm sure they cougar ran away as he felt threatened by several people. I'm glad the man was not alone! Thank you for stopping in, voting and leaving such an interesting comment. I appreciate it very much! :)

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      Larry Fields 4 years ago from Northern California

      Hi sgbrown. Several years ago, some of my outdoor friends did the short Silver Creek hike, in California's Northern Sierra Foothills. When the trail petered out they sat down and ate lunch. The wind was blowing toward the people, and the noise of the running water drowned out any of their noises. An older gentleman in the group spotted a cougar. He stood up and said: Look, there's a mountain lion! Then the big cat ran away. So much for the king of the jungle.

      Voted up and interesting.

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