They may be dangerous but American wild cat breeds are part of American ecosystem and their absence will absolutely have irreversible effects on all wild life.
If you ever encounter one of these American wild cat breeds, I assure you that you will be scared and you are right to do so. Wild life is not something to be romantic about. Nature is fierce and it does not forgive anything. Human kind is the biggest threat to the wild life and most of the time extinction of a species disrupt the natural balance and cause huge effects not only on wild life but also in human society.
For every human action against the wild life, there is a natural reaction. For instance, removing birds from a specific environment for the sake of crop protection causes having more insects roaming around and as a result there would be even less crops in just one or two seasons. Such events have been seen in history but unregulated hunting, using huge amount of chemicals and poisons in agriculture, etc. show us that we still are unable to learn from history.
The American wild cat breeds you are about to read are what we are left with in North America and some of them are not doing well. Therefore, if you see one of these animals, please inform the local authorities before you grab your gun. Its life is much more precious than someone’s taste for its fur.
1 – Jaguar (Panthera Onca)
Jaguar is the third largest cat in the world reaching up to 60–72 inches (87-108 with the tail) and 79–211 pounds and it is the largest cat of the American wild cat breeds since the first two cats are tigers and lions which live in Asia and Africa. But don’t let the size of jaguar fool you, it is fast! It can reach speeds up to 50 mph.
Unfortunately there are only a few jaguars left in the U.S. and some even say that the one of the last jaguars was killed in Arizona in 2018. Therefore the rest of the jaguars still breathing are in Mexico and South America however there are still occasional sightings along the border of Arizona and Mexico. I can’t stress enough how losing such a majestic wild cat is a huge loss for the U.S.
Jaguar is listed as “NEAR THREATENED” status by International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. It is thought that only 15,000 jaguars are still roaming the wilds of Americas and their population is decreasing with each passing day mostly due to deforestation.
2 – Ocelot (Leopardus Pardalis)
Ocelot lives both in South and North America but its presence in North America is limited to Arizona and Texas. It is a small to mid-size cat that mainly prefers habitats with thick vegetation such as tropical rainforests and mangrove swamps but can also be seen in marshlands and grasslands in small numbers.
Ocelots are most active at night and they can be seen resting in the branches during the day. They prey on small animals that are under 2 lb 3 oz (1 kg) in weight. Their diet includes small mammals such as rodents or small monkeys, birds, frogs and reptiles.
Although they are listed as “LEAST CONCERN” status, ocelots are an endangered species in the U.S. due to illegal hunting for their beautiful fur. Once they could be found throughout the southwestern parts of the country but now they can only be seen in southernmost areas of Texas and Arizona.
3 – Canadian Lynx (Lynx Canadensis)
We can easily say that the Canadian lynx is the cold weather cousin of bobcat since they are almost the same size and both have tufted ears and a bobbed, black-tipped tail. However, Canadian lynx has more hair especially on tis face and feet which is natural considering the cold climate it lives in.
Although the lynx in general can be found in Europe and Asia, too, Canadian lynx is smaller than its cousins. Therefore its preys are smaller, too. While the Eurasian lynx can hunt animals as big as deer, Canadian lynx feeds mainly on snowshoe hares. Snowshoe hares consists between 60 and 97% of its diet. There is a direct correlation between the population of snowshoe hares and the population of Canadian lynx. When the snowshoe hare population increases so does the Canadian lynx population and vice versa.
Among all 6 American wild cat breeds Canadian Lynx is one of the two species whose population is stable along with bobcat. That’s why it is considered in “LEAST CONCERN” status. As the name suggests, it can be found in Canada but it also lives in Alaska and northern contiguous United States.
4 – Bobcat (Lynx Rufus)
Bobcat is the only one among American wild cat breeds that can be found almost in the entire U.S. with the exception of certain parts of the midwest. It can live in mountains, swamps, deserts, forests and farmland. Other places it can be found are Mexico and Southern Canada.
Just like Canadian lynx, bobcat is a mid-sized cat and due their resemblance people think of them as one species however they are different species belonging to the same feline family. Although they are the most abundant among American wild cat breeds, they are rarely seen by people because they are nocturnal creatures. Bobcat is an extremely resourceful cat that has a wide variety of choices in its menu from rabbits to reptiles and fowl including farmer’s chickens.
The biggest threat to bobcats is humans because they are shot by farmers due to their taste for chickens and by hunters as bobcat loves to hunt quail, pheasant and chukar, too. So hunters shoot bobcats in order to be able to hunt more of these animals as if there were not enough of those animals. They are also used to breed some hybrid domestic cat breeds.
5 – Jaguarundi (Herpailurus Yagouaroundi)
Jaguarundi should not be mistaken with the domestic Jaguarundi Curl cat breed! Jaguarundi is the smallest wild cat in North America, however it is still significantly larger than your average domestic cat. It looks like a member of the family Mustelidae (weasels, badgers, otters, etc.) due to its elongated body and short legs, small head and sleek coats. This similarity even caused early German zoologists to name the species the species as the “weasel cat”.
Unlike most other cats, jaguarundi is active during the day and hunts a wide variety of small to mid-size prey such as armadillos, rodents, reptiles, rabbits, fowl (from quail to turkey and farmer’s chickens), possums, amphibians. These solitary cats generally live and hunt alone but can be seen in pairs although this is very rare.
Main habitat for jaguarundi is from Mexico through Central and South America however there are occasional reports of spotting in Texas and Florida, too. It is listed as “LEAST CONCERN” status but its population is decreasing due to loss of natural habitat which is scrubland; grassland and forest.
6 – Mountain Lion (Felis Concolor or Puma Concolor)
Mountain lions are known by many names such as Florida panthers, cougars, pumas and catamounts. They are primarily found in the western US, southwestern Canada, almost all of Mexico and Central and South America however they also live in small numbers in pockets of some other states such as Florida, Nebraska, South and North Carolina, Oklahoma, Missouri, Georgia and Arkansas.
Although pumas are the 4th largest cat in the world, they are not considered one of the “big cats” because they are not a member of the genus Panthera which is the big cats family but they are the largest cats in small cats family. They are closely related to jaguarundis.
Although they are known to attack humans, only 4 attacks and 1 death occur each year in all of the US and Canada on average. Also, they tend to attack only if you are alone or a small child so their fame as human hunters is a little exaggerated by the movies. Their diet mainly consists of deer, but it also includes coyotes and other mammals such as raccoons and porcupines.
Mountain Lions are considered in “LEAST CONCERN” status but like most other American wild cat breeds their population is also decreasing.