It happened at several secret locations deep in the forests of East Texas.
In the early 1980s, officials with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) released Canada lynx into the Pineywoods region. I first heard of these stockings taking place in the Livingston area but later heard they also occurred near Toledo Bend reservoir and in the Big Thicket National Preserve.
Occasionally people would see one of these "lynx", which are allegedly much larger than a Texas bobcat.
These stories were persistent growing up in East Texas, but the details seemed to change. Some said it was actually the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that released the cats while others claimed it was the U.S. Forest Service.
The problem is these stories are bogus. Totally bogus.
TPWD or any other agency for that matter has never stocked Canada lynx (Lynx Canadensis) into any destination in Texas and for that matter would have no reason to do so. They have never lived in the region and their very close cousin is doing incredibly well here.
That is where the confusion lies.
Many people often call a bobcat a lynx or a lynx a bobcat. They are very similar in appearance and it can be confusing to tell them apart, especially when you look at the scientific classification.
Both the bobcat and lynx are found in the cat family, Felidae, which is then broken down to the genus Lynx. From there, each species of lynx is named. The Canada lynx is lynx Canadensis and the bobcat is lynx rufus. There are also two other lynx, Eurasian and Iberian.
Therefore, even though they are in the same classification, they are two distinct subspecies (confused yet?).
By appearance, they are similar. They both have "stumpy" tails, about 4-5" long, ruff of fur extending from the ears to the jowl and a black tipped tail. The colors are similar from light gray to brown that is more common and is often spotted or streaked with black. Their size is similar, from 65-100 cm (including the tail) and weights range from 15-35 lbs. From here, we can get more specific.
The bobcat looks more like an overgrown housecat. Most of them do not have the distinguishing extra long tufts of hair on the tips of its ears or the bigger, shaggy feet that help the Canada lynx navigate in the deep snow.
Another characteristic is the tail. While both have short "bobbed" tails, the bobcats is banded with black stripes, and is black at the top of the tip and white at the bottom. The lynxs tail lacks banding and is completely black at the tip.
The range of the bobcat is from southern Canada to Central Mexico and tolerates the forest, mountains, swamps or desert regions, while the Canada lynx prefers forested areas and mainly lives on the snowshoe hare.
There is a distinct correlation between the number of births of Canada lynx and the amount of prey of the snowshoe hare. The bobcat feeds on a more diverse diet of rabbits, squirrels, mice and birds and sometimes deer, a trait that has contributed greatly to their success.
We could find no basis for the origins of Canada lynx stockings in Texas as was discovered about the alleged timber rattlesnake releases in the Pineywoods and published first here in TF&G in 2003. While conducting research for our Southern Panther Search, however, we have found numerous traits of bobcat appearance that could make someone think they were seeing a lynx.
The first is size.
Bobcats can vary greatly in size as noted earlier in the story. A hunter, for example, who shoots a 20-pound bobcat might be shocked to see a 35-pound cat with long legs that looks as if it were a giant in comparison to the animal they took. Some bobcats tend to be very "leggy" while others are long and lean.
Ear tufts also vary greatly among individuals. Most bobcats have short but some are comparable to those of their northern cousins.
Spot patterns also vary wildly with some having virtually no spots on the top half and others possessing well-defined spots. A few individuals have unique pattern traits of spots within spots that look sort of like the rosettes of a leopard or jaguar. It is not as pronounced as on those big cats, but it looks shockingly different from other bobcats. Bob, one of the bobcats at Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge, has this pattern and we received a photo of wild specimen in Texas while conducting our research.
People seeing this "different" looking bobcat, sometimes associate them with Canada lynx and at some point a stocking legend began.
In a way that is a shame because, like our very own lynx, the bobcat, is an amazing cat.
The Canada Lynx, pictured here, has never been stocked in Texas but rumors persist of their existence in the Lone Star State. Photo: US Fish & Wildlife service
Here are some facts that will give you a new appreciation for this diminutive but astounding feline.
• A few years back the estimated bobcat population in Texas was around 200,000. That is probably a low number. These cats are all over the place and their range seems to be expanding.
• Our research has documented bobcats in the city limits of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Bobcats are able to live in small woodlots and will do just fine preying on the rodents around garbage dumps and drainage ditches.
• A study conducted in the Florida Everglades in 1992 showed that bobcats are fully capable of killing full grown whitetails although it fairly rare event. Bobcats killed six radio-collared adult deer in the region by administering one bite to the throat.
• According to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, bobcats are able to jump up to 12 feet in a single bound.
The bobcat may not be as glamorous as its furrier, snowshoe-footed Canadian cousin may but they are perfectly suited for life in the Lone Star State where they fill an important niche in the environment.
(If you have unique bobcat photographs or any other of Texas wild cat photos or simply have questions about them email email@example.com or visit www.southernpanthersearch.com.)