University of California, Riverside

UCR Botanic Gardens


Though the Botanic Gardens is primarily a realm of wondrous plant materials, sometimes their sanctuary provides the setting for other special experiences. We would like to share this account, from 1982, by one of our long time Friends of the Botanic Gardens, Ken Arakawa.

"Bobcats", By Ken Arakawa

Bobcat "While walking early one June morning in the Botanic Gardens, I was completely surprised to see a family of bobcats (Lynx rufus). On a rocky ledge, the mother bobcat was nursing three kittens. They must have been about two months old, judging from the bobcat's January and February mating season, and fifty to sixty day gestation period.

Though bobcats are known to be ferocious and impudent toward outsiders, mother nursed and groomed each of her kittens affectionately, staying alert to any intrusion. After feeding, some fun began. One tireless kitten played with a bone and kept throwing it into the air. Another lay on its back and kicked mother. The third scampered around mother, then suddenly jumped on her back and sat proudly.

Disturbed by the clicking of my camera, mother became intolerant of my presence and came down between the rocks, approaching within twenty-five feet of me. As you can imagine, I retreated to avoid confrontation.

I continued to observe the family whenever I could. Sometimes my presence frightened the kittens into the den, but not for long. Their curiosity would bring them out again to explore. In the heat of the day, they stretched out together and rested under the shadow of a boulder. One kitten liked to lie on its back with its feet in the air. Come feeding time, the three kittens would walk single-file along the narrow path between the rocks to where they customarily nursed. Mother appeared to be very punctual for the 12:30 feeding.

For several days in July, I did not see the bobcat family; but then, one day, I was overwhelmed to see the three kittens standing on a rock, silhouetted against the blue sky. they had grown considerably.

As they grew, mother took the kittens to see the hunting territory, a prelude to weaning. In November, I saw mother bobcat leading two kittens along the southwest fence. They stopped suddenly and one kitten cautiously crept toward a bush. Tensed, quivering, with one foot poised, it leapt; but it failed to capture the prey it was after. Thus, the kittens were learning how to hunt. They would spend another four or five months with their mother before each found its own territory.

What had brought the bobcats to the Botanic Gardens? The boulders in the arroyo provided excellent shelter, for one thing; and the Gardens support an abundance of prey, such as cottontail rabbits, which the bobcats helped to suppress. Observing the bobcats was a rare opportunity, an opportunity that made me realize how much visitors can come to appreciate, through quiet observation, the subtleties of a complex ecosystem."

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University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

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Botanic Gardens

Tel: (951) 784-6962

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Botanic Gardens
University of California
Riverside, CA 92521-0124