Bobcats at Crystal Cove State Park
If you are out and about hiking in Crystal Cove State Park, you are likely to see lots evidence of the native wildlife, such as tracks, scat, and scratch marks. Bobcats are highly adaptable to living in a variety of habitats, but these beautiful animals are very secretive and solitary. We see their signs, but rarely the animal itself.
Bobcat tracks have four toe imprints that are missing the claw (they tuck their claws into their “pockets” when they walk,) and a heel pad that resembles an “M.” Their scat is cylindrical, filled with hair and bones, and typically segmented resembling a tootsie roll (gross comparison, I know, but an accurate one nonetheless.) Scratch marks are intended to cover the scat with soil like a cat does in a litter box. The home territory of a bobcat ranges over several square miles and is delineated by partially buried scat intentionally deposited at the territorial boundary lines, or with odiferous sprays of cat urine on tree trunks. Bobcats are usually crepuscular (active in twilight), and will bed down for the day in steep areas with lots of cover.
Animal evidence like tracks and scat serve as windows that allow park staff to know who is living in the park and since bobcats are habitual animals who use the same hunting areas, resting spots and routes we are assured of their presence, which is important for wildlands managers to know. When asked if he had any idea how many bobcats we have in our area, Dick Newell from OC Trackers replied, “I can’t give you an accurate count, but using what we learned during the USGS survey back in the 2005 – 2007 era as a base and what we are currently observing in our camera traps and in the field we probably have a population of maybe a dozen cats in your area. This population may be down a bit from its historic count based on the recent dry years and roadkill and the use of rodenticides continues to have a negative impact. We continue to get occasional reports from the park rangers and other professional staff as well as from guests alerting us to new litters being observed down around the Cottages and more from around the Pelican Hills golf course. With all the coastal scrub this area continues to provide good habitat for the bunnies and squirrels which provide the bulk of a bobcat’s diet.”
So keep looking for these gorgeous creatures in the park and note if you find their “sign” then the maker of the “sign” might be nearby.