Wild cats are generally quite elusive creatures. You rarely see them because they are very stealthy and usually do not want to be seen. If you are lucky enough to see one (hopefully from a safe distance), how can you figure out what species it is? Find out by reading this blog!
Canada Lynx (Lynx canadensis)
Canada Lynx have a very helpful identifying feature. They have very long black tufts of fur on the ends of their ears, which neither of Alberta’s other wild cats have. Lynx are smaller than cougars, but larger than bobcats. Canada Lynx also have a black-tipped tail, which is useful in trying to identify what species of cat you are seeing, especially if the animal is running away.
Canada Lynx range across the entire northern half of the province and extend down the Rocky Mountains. They live primarily in coniferous forests, where Snowshoe Hares are their main source of food. Canada Lynx have very large, furry feet, which allows them to travel comfortably in the winter and to be very quiet when doing so.
Cougar (Felis concolor)
Cougars are the largest of the three species of wild cats in Alberta. They are usually between 100 and 150 pounds - or about the size of an average teenager! Cougars are easy to identify because they have very long tails, ranging between two and three feet in length, whereas Lynx and Bobcats have short, stubby tails.
Cougars are very dangerous because they are such good hunters. They sit up in trees or high places to search for their next meal, and when they find it, they leap on or silently stalk their prey. You wouldn’t know a Cougar is there, unless it wants you to. To stay safe in areas that may have cougars, make sure you are with at least one other person, and make noise as you travel through the area.
Bobcat (Lynx rufus)
Bobcats are the smallest wild cat in Alberta. Despite being the smallest wild cat, bobcats are still larger than domestic cats, sometimes getting up to two feet tall. Bobcats are usually found in the very south end of the province, and are very unlikely to be spotted in the Edmonton region. They are distinguishable from Cougars because they are much smaller and have a very short tail. Lynx and Bobcats are harder to tell apart, but size and pattern are usually good indicators.
Bobcats live in forested areas or other places with lots of overgrown vegetation. Lots of vegetation gives the bobcat a place to hide while hunting. They mostly eat rodents and other small mammals, but have also been known to attack larger animals like deer. Like house cats, bobcats also bury their scat!
Now you know the three types of cats in Alberta! If you are lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of any of these creatures, hopefully you will have a better idea of what you are looking at.