Denizens Of The Desert:
Desert Bighorn And Near Relatives
Battle Of The Reptiles
Latrodectus, The Poisonous
Le Conte Thrasher
Gnatcatchers And Verdins
Desert White–crowned Sparrow
Read More Articles About: Denizens Of The Desert
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WILD CATS or desert lynxes are plentifully found over almost the whole desert region of the Southwest. They are especially abundant along the western borders of the desert, where the brushy foothills of the high mountain ranges afford them abundant shelter and a good supply of food. They are such shy and secretive animals that were it not for their occasional depredations upon the fowl yards of settlers, and their getting into traps set for them by trappers, we should scarcely ever know they were about. They are out very little in the day-time, preferring to do their hunting during the early evening and night hours. I was, some months ago, camping near a water-hole on the Colorado Desert, and every evening at dusk I observed a mother lynx coming down onto the little grass plot near the spring. As long as I was perfectly quiet, she would sit still and watch me, but the moment I made a sudden move she was off into the arrowweed in an instant. By following her trails, I was led into a rocky gorge near by where I found her den, and in it were three kittens about one third grown. I must confess that, when I first approached, it was with much hesitancy, for a wild cat is not a pleasant animal to meet in combat. And here was a mother with young ! To my surprise she became frightened and abandoned the den almost as soon as she saw me, and I was left to see the kittens alone. They were pretty little things, really much more like domestic kittens than I had imagined. There was a stockiness of build, a bigness of head, and enormity of padded paws, however, that no tame kitten ever possessed. Furthermore, there was no long tail - only a stump; the jowl whiskers, if such you may call the heavy long hair-tufts beneath the jaw, were well developed, and the ears were tufted by fine pencils of black hair. As I approached the kittens they gave a coarse "mew," but very soon showed their distrust by spitting at me. They were going to take no chance with this new creature who had looked down upon them in their home, and they leaped from the nest and past me into the open with a quickness that startled me. There was probably a family reunion some-where out in the brush that night, but I never had a chance to know of it, for the mother never led her kittens back to the old den again. One such intrusion was enough for her.
The young begin eating meat without evil consequences very early, probably within a few weeks after birth. Small animals and birds are brought in, torn to pieces by the mother, and fed to them. Growth under these circumstances is very rapid, and it is not long before the young cats are able to hunt for themselves. Like the domestic kittens they are very playful and when taken soon after birth manifest a great affection for their captor if he is at all kind to them. They will not tolerate strangers, however, and will spit and jump about ferociously in the cage and show the greatest of uneasiness.
Wild cats manifest the greatest antipathy to their domestic cousins; also toward dogs. A man whom I met at the head of Coyote Cañon, in Riverside County, California, found it necessary to keep the closest watch on his tame cat, especially at night. To ensure her a safe retreat he had a hole cut in the door of his house just large enough for her to pass through, but too small for the lynxes. The dog when annoyed sought shelter up in the attic of the small shanty, a crude stairway leading up to the door outside affording him a means of getting up. This man had lost several cats in the past and his small dog had had enough scratches to make him scramble upstairs to the attic upon the first good hiss from a wild cat.
At Indian Springs Ranch, in Southwestern Nevada, a desert lynx had a few days before my arrival played havoc with a whole flock of domestic fowls, killing in all some twenty blooded chickens and this in one night. The animal had been crawling over the roof of the rather poorly constructed coop and unluckily fell through the rotted shingles plump into the midst of the whole pen of roosting fowls. Frightened, no doubt, and angry because he could not find his way out, he killed every hen within reach. The proprietor of the ranch found him still imprisoned next morning, and a wild-cat hide now lies stretched on the floor of the house.
Lynxes live largely on birds and such small mammals as they can overpower. These they catch by approaching them stealthily and then at the opportune moment leaping upon them. Fowls are taken occasionally, but no one need lose chickens if he will see to it that the pens are tight and strongly made.