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Caracal - Caracal caracal
Topic Started: Apr 18 2012, 11:08 PM (9,835 Views)
Taipan
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Caracal - Caracal caracal

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Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Caracal
Species: Caracal caracal
(Schreber, 1776)

The caracal (Caracal caracal, pronounced /ˈkærəkæl/) is a fiercely territorial medium-sized cat ranging over Western Asia, South Asia and Africa.

The word caracal comes from the Turkish word "karakulak", meaning "black ear". In North India and Pakistan, the caracal is locally known as syahgosh (स्याहगोष/سیاه گوش) which is a Persian term meaning black ears. In Afrikaans it is called Rooikat, "red cat".

Although it has traditionally had the alternative names Persian Lynx, Egyptian Lynx and African Lynx, it is no longer considered to be an actual lynx. Instead, it is now believed to be closely related to the African golden cat and the serval. The caracal is classified as a small cat, yet is amongst the heaviest of all small cats, as well as the quickest, being nearly as fast as the serval.

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Description
The caracal is a slender, yet muscular, cat, with long legs and a short tail. Males typically weigh 13 to 18 kilograms (29 to 40 lb), while females weigh about 11 kilograms (24 lb). The caracal resembles a Eurasian Lynx, and for a long time it was considered a close relative of the lynxes. It has a tail nearly a third of its body length, and both sexes look the same. The caracal is 65 to 90 centimetres (26 to 35 in) in length, with a 30 centimetres (12 in) tail. Compared to lynxes, it has longer legs, shorter fur, and a slimmer appearance.

The colour of the fur varies between wine-red, grey, or sand-coloured. Melanistic (black) caracals also occur. Young caracals bear reddish spots on the underside; adults do not have markings except for black spots above the eyes and small white patches around the eyes and nose. Underparts of chin and body are white, and a narrow black line runs from the corner of the eye to the nose.

The pupils of a caracal's eyes contract to form circles rather than the slits found in most small cats. The most conspicuous feature of the caracal is elongated, tufted black ears, which also explain the origin of its name, karakulak, Turkish for "black ear". A juvenile has black on the outside of the ears, which disappears as it becomes an adult. Its ears, which it uses to locate prey, are controlled by 29 different muscles.

The feet of a caracal have numerous stiff hairs growing between the pads. These probably help the animal walk on soft sand. The jaw is short and equipped with powerful teeth. About 92 percent of caracals lack the second upper premolar teeth.

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Habitat
The caracal is distributed over Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and India. Its chief habitat is dry steppes and semideserts, but it also inhabits woodlands, savannah, and scrub forest. They generally prefer open country, so long as there is sufficient cover, in the form of bushes and rocks, from which to ambush prey.

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Its life expectancy in the wild is 12 years, and 17 years in captivity. The caracal may survive without drinking for a long period — the water demand is satisfied with the body fluids of its prey. Since it is also surprisingly easy to tame, it has been used as a hunting cat in Iran and India.

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Behaviour and diet
Adult caracals dwell either alone or, less commonly, in pairs. Females inhabit relatively small home ranges, varying from 5 to 57 square kilometres (1.9 to 22 sq mi), depending on the local availability of prey. While the females actively defend their territory against other females, the males roam over much larger areas of 19 to 220 square kilometres (7.3 to 85 sq mi) with considerable overlap.

Like other cats, caracals scent mark their territory. They leave their faeces in visible locations, and also mark territory by spraying urine onto bushes or logs, or raking it into the ground with their hind feet.

Caracals hunt by stalking their prey, approaching within about 5 metres (16 ft) before suddenly sprinting and leaping. They kill smaller prey with a bite to the nape of the neck, and larger animals by biting the throat and then raking with their claws. Caracals sometimes cover their larger prey if they cannot consume the whole carcass in a single meal, and return to it later. Some have even been observed to hide carcasses in trees.

It is best known for its spectacular skill at hunting birds, able to snatch a bird in flight, sometimes more than one at a time. It can jump and climb exceptionally well, which enables it to catch hyraxes better than probably any other carnivore. If no cover is available in which to conceal itself, a caracal may flatten itself against the ground and remain motionless, allowing its coat colour to act as camouflage.

Caracals produce the usual range of sounds for cats, including growling, hissing, purring, and calling. Unusually, they also make a barking sound, which is possibly used as a warning.

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Reproduction and life cycle
Mating may occur at any time of year; however, it is more likely to occur when prey is plentiful, which stimulates estrous in females. The estrous cycle lasts two weeks, and is marked by the female spraying urine containing chemical cues advertising her receptivity to neighbouring males.

The female typically mates with several males over the course of a number of days. In some areas, males have been observed to fight aggressively for access to females and to remain with one for several days to guard against rivals; in others, they appear to be less protective. Copulation can last from ninety seconds to ten minutes.

Gestation lasts from sixty-one to eighty-one days, and litter size ranges from one to six kittens. For litters born in their natural environment, the maximum number of kittens is three; however, larger litters are more likely to occur in captivity where nutrition needs are adequately met. Before birth, the female prepares a den in a cave or other sheltered area, sometimes using the abandoned burrows of other animals. At birth, the kittens are blind and helpless, weigh 198 to 250 grams (7.0 to 8.8 oz), and have yellow to reddish brown fur with black markings. The eyes open at around ten days, and the deciduous teeth have fully developed by fifty days. The canines are the first permanent teeth to appear, at around four or five months, with the others following over the next six months.

Kittens are able to leave the birthing den at around one month old, and at about this time the mother will begin regularly moving them to new locations. Kittens are weaned at about ten weeks, but may stay with their mother for up to one year, when they start to reach sexual maturity. Life expectancy in the wild is twelve years, and seventeen years in captivity.

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Conservation
Caracals are often viewed as vermin by farmers in Africa as they may prey on domesticated livestock such as poultry and young sheep and goats. Caracals are rarely seen in the wild despite their relative abundance, as they hide extremely well. Game drives in countries such as Kenya and Botswana widely encounter other animals, but a sighting of a caracal is extremely rare.

The caracal has been hybridised with the domestic cat at the Moscow Zoo.

Subspecies

  • Caracal caracal algira (Wagner, 1841), North Africa
  • Caracal caracal caracal (Schreber, 1776), East, Central and South Africa
  • Caracal caracal damarensis (Roberts, 1926), Namibia
  • Caracal caracal limpopoensis (Roberts, 1926), Botswana
  • Caracal caracal lucani (Rochebrune, 1885), Gabon
  • Caracal caracal nubica (J. B. Fischer, 1829), Ethiopia, Sudan
  • Caracal caracal poecilotis (Thomas and Hinton, 1921), West Africa
  • Caracal caracal schmitzi (Matschie, 1912), Israel, West Asia, Iran, Arabia, Pakistan, India, Jordan
Edited by Taipan, Jun 28 2017, 10:48 PM.
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Weight Studies
Caracals are the largest of the African small cats: males can weigh up to 18 kg (average 13 kg, Cape Province, South Africa; n=61) and females up to 16 kg (average 10 kg in Cape Province; n=41) (Stuart 1981).

Diet
Caracals prey on a variety of mammals, with rodents, hares, hyraxes and small antelopes forming the major part of their diet (Smithers 1971, Grobler 1981, Stuart 1982, Moolman 1986, Palmer and Fairall 1988) in many areas. In South Africa’s West Coast National Park, near Cape Town, Avenant (1993) found that rodents were the most common prey remains found in caracal scats, occurring with 89% frequency.

Hunting at Night
Antelope remains were more common than rodents in 194 stomachs collected from individuals killed as problem animals in Cape Province (Stuart 1981). Caracals are capable of taking relatively large prey: successful predation on adult springbok (Avenant 1993) and young kudu (Shortridge 1934) has been reported.

Caracals are also known for their exceptional ability to catch birds, leaping high into the air to knock them down with their front paws. Avenant (1993) found that bird remains occurred in 18% of caracal scats in the West Coast NP, while Moolman (1984b) found their occurrence in only 2-4% of scats collected in and around the Mountain Zebra NP. Invertebrates and reptiles are also eaten. Mean daily food intake for captive adult caracals has been estimated by Moolman (1986) at 500 g for males and 316 g for females. Caracals are predominantly nocturnal, but are often observed in the daytime, particularly in protected areas.

Tree Caching
After making a kill, caracals have been reported, leopard-like, to cache the remains in a tree (Roberts 1951, Mills et al. 1984), although this behavior is apparently not common.

Scavenging?
Caracals have rarely been recorded to take carrion (Skinner 1979, C. Stuart in litt. 1991). However, in Namibia’s Etosha National Park, a young adult female scavenged from a springbok killed by a cheetah, waiting for two hours for the cheetah to finish eating and move off (B. Bjil and K. Nowell pers. obs.). Moolman (1984a) successfully captured caracals for his study in the Mountain Zebra National Park, South Africa, by placing box traps near half-eaten large prey (mountain reedbuck) originally caught by a caracal, to which the animal eventually returned to feed. Shortridge (1934) states that they are fairly easy to trap, as long as the bait is fresh. A female with cubs was observed to return to feed on her springbok carcass for 3-4 consecutive nights (Avenant 1993).

http://lynx.uio.no/lynx/catsgportal/cat-website/20_cat-website/home/index_en.htm

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Caracal Hunting Impala
Date: Sunday, August 04, 2002


It was at six o’clock in the morning when Thys Cronje of Krugersdorp photographed the caracal, Felis caracal (rooikat) that had just taken a pregnant impala ewe at Mambo in the Okavango.

Thys says the caracal stalked a small herd of impala and when it was five meters away, it made a dash and charged the ewe. It slammed into the impala, turned her on her back and in a flash clamped its jaws onto her throat and suffocated its prey.

The caracal then sat for about fifteen minutes before starting to chew on the right leg.

All of this is classic hunting behaviour of the caracal, but impalas are not often taken. They are known to take young mountain reedbuck, grysbok, duiker, steenbok, bushbuck, mole rats, hyrax, hares, rabbits, mongoose, birds and reptiles.

It can kill prey more than twice its own weight and there are records of caracal taking a sitting ostrich - proof of its prowess as a hunter.

Like most predators it uses cover to stalk and when close enough, launches the attack. The powerful hindquarters also allows for some remarkable jumping ability. From a sedentary position it can jump five meters into the air. It also suffocates prey with a throat bite and for this it has a dew claw – an additional toe and nail on the inside of each front foot – to help hold down prey.

Its canine teeth are heavy and sharp and it has powerful neck and jaw muscles to deliver the killing bite and to slices its food into pieces which are swallowed without much chewing. It invariably starts feeding on the hindquarters and later on the forequarters. It never eats the viscera.

The cryptic colouring of its body, its speed and strength and agility, makes the caracal a formidable predator.

http://www.5050.co.za/inserts.asp?ID=3313




Caracal Catches African Wild Cat

Date: Monday, November 05, 2007

Producer: Ronnie Watt
E-mail: veldfocus@iafrica.com

The caracal is mostly active at night but daytime sightings are common. Not so commonly seen is a daytime hunt by the caracal and if the prey is an African wild cat, then the sighting is worthwhile sharing with you.
Nardus du Plessis of Upington spotted the caracal at the Auob River in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It was stalking prey. It launched an attack and chased and caught an African wild cat. The cat put up a fierce resistance but the caracal eventually managed to kill and drag it off to the side of the road and then up a dune.

The video clip shows just how fiercely the African wild cat tried to escape. The caracal’s hold was by the throat but the cat was able to use its hind legs to kick against the caracal, at times rake the attacker’s body and even launch itself upright to squirm about, but it was repeatedly subdued and then killed.

http://www.5050.co.za:80/inserts.asp?ID=8064

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Elusive lynx kills 40 penguins at Betty's Bay

Melanie Gosling
February 06 2004 at 01:59AM

A lynx with at least one cub has taken to raiding the African penguin breeding colony at Betty's Bay where it has killed at least 40 penguins in the past five weeks.

The lynx, also known as a caracal or rooikat, has been spotted by residents walking with its cub through the small seaside town.

Residents say they have seen lynx spoor in the Stoney Point penguin colony in Betty's Bay and marks where the cat had dragged the dead penguins to its nearby lair.

Conservation officials have tried in vain to trap the lynx in a cage so they can release it on a nature reserve, but the wily animal has walked right past the cage and helped herself to another penguin meal.

Craig Spencer of Overstrand Nature Conservation said predators feeding on coastal bird colonies was not new, and was one of the reasons most seabirds nested on islands.

Because of the increased presence of humans on the coast, the number of predators had declined in built-up areas which made it safer for the ground-breeding seabirds to breed on the mainland. This was probably the reason penguins had established breeding colonies at Betty's Bay and Boulders in recent years.

"Penguins as a species are in serious trouble, with over-fishing of their food source thought to be a major cause for their decline. So it is important for us to interfere to protect the colonies from predators."

"There are about 98 breeding pairs of penguins, and this caracal will have a serious effect on the breeding success of this colony," Spencer said.

http://www.int.iol.co.za/index.php?click....588329&set_id=1
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Taipan
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Cougar
Apr 18 2012, 11:12 PM
Caracal Catches African Wild Cat

Date: Monday, November 05, 2007

Producer: Ronnie Watt
E-mail: veldfocus@iafrica.com

The caracal is mostly active at night but daytime sightings are common. Not so commonly seen is a daytime hunt by the caracal and if the prey is an African wild cat, then the sighting is worthwhile sharing with you.
Nardus du Plessis of Upington spotted the caracal at the Auob River in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It was stalking prey. It launched an attack and chased and caught an African wild cat. The cat put up a fierce resistance but the caracal eventually managed to kill and drag it off to the side of the road and then up a dune.

The video clip shows just how fiercely the African wild cat tried to escape. The caracal’s hold was by the throat but the cat was able to use its hind legs to kick against the caracal, at times rake the attacker’s body and even launch itself upright to squirm about, but it was repeatedly subdued and then killed.

http://www.5050.co.za:80/inserts.asp?ID=8064




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Taipan
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Urban caracals sometimes feast on raptors

BY IAN DICKINSON JUNE 22 2017

Rock Kestrel
While caracal poop yields a smorgasbord of dietary intel, the remains observed at kill sites in the field are mostly limited to those of birds. "Feathers are easy to find and not consumed by the caracals," says Leighton. Identifying the avian kills doesn't usually present too much of a challenge: spotty black feathers belong to guineafowl, while Egyptian geese sport greenish, brown-and-white quills with fluffy barred down. For less distinctive plumage, however, Leighton outsources expertise from the more ornithologically inclined.

She didn't need help cracking her first case of caracal-caused raptor death, though. Photos of dark feathers edged with teeth-like strips of white were enough to go on: they once belonged to a rock kestrel (Falco rupicolus). These slender raptors are common throughout South Africa, but are known to breed on the rocky slopes of the Cape Point area. The birds hunt on the ground and prefer foraging in open fields, where it's easier to spring a surprise attack on an unsuspecting rat or pigeon. It's possible that this kestrel was preoccupied with just such a hunt when a caracal named Protea (TMC24 if you prefer her more formal title) pounced from the undergrowth and dispatched it for an afternoon snack.

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Left: Rock kestrel feathers from a kill site. Image: Jessleena Suri Right: Protea, the caracal responsible for the kill. Image: Urban Caracal Project

Jackal Buzzard
Further north, in the suburb of Noordhoek, another case of raptorcide was opened. And this one was a bit more complex. Grisly photos of the crime scene revealed a raptor's head and a smattering of feathers obscured by leaves and dappled light. Stumped, Leighton called on Jessleena Suri, a bird nerd with a degree on urban black sparrowhawks under her belt. The verdict? It turned out the victim was a juvenile, its reddish-brown feathers identified by Suri as belonging to a young jackal buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus). Locals have probably seen these small raptors perched on roadside telephone poles – a good vantage point for parachuting down on rodents and birds below. Perhaps inexperience was this young buzzard's downfall.

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The grim remains of a jackal buzzard kill. Image: Gabriella Leighton

Spotted Eagle Owl
An unfussy diet is not necessarily enough to sustain the caracals' into the future. Their taste for raptors is more likely the result of circumstances, not an innate preference. "Caracals are opportunistic, generalist predators and will take what they can get," explains Leighton. Indeed, her research has documented only three raptor kills so far. But the final example is perhaps the most captivating.

Once again puzzled by the evidence, Leighton called on professional birder Campbell Fleming. With a bit of help from an online feather quiz, Leighton and Fleming were able to identify the prey as a spotted eagle owl (Bubo africanus). This time, a juvenile male caracal named Strandloper ("Beach-walker") was responsible.

A showdown between secretive city-prowler and nocturnal, winged assassin is about as juicy as urban predation gets. But the late-night fight also offers us a glimmer of optimism. Despite some steep odds, perhaps versatile wild cats like caracals can still eke out an existence amid urban development. Perhaps there is hope that while the city sleeps, the tawny ghosts of the Cape Peninsula can continue to prowl the top of the food chain.

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Left: A blurry photo showing the remains of an avian kill. Image: Gabriella Leighton. Right: The caracal that carried out the 'owlicide', Strandloper. Image: Urban Caracal Project

https://www.earthtouchnews.com/natural-world/predator-vs-prey/urban-caracals-sometimes-feast-on-raptors/
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