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Caracal (Felis caracal)



Caracal (Felis caracal)
Order: Carnivora, Family: Felidae

The heaviest of all the small cats, the caracal is relatively short in length, with long legs and big feet. Its hindquarters are more developed than its forequarters. Males weigh 26 to 40 pounds and are 16 to 20 inches in height. Females weigh 18 to 29 pounds and are 5 to 8 percent smaller. The caracal's tail measures half the length of its body. Its head is short with powerful jaws. Caracals have reddish-brown fur on their back and flanks, while their underparts are white with faint spots. They have dark markings on their cheeks and above their eyes edged with white. The caracal's ears are its most noticeable feature. They are long and slender and topped with long tufts of black fur.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • The heaviest of all the small cats, the caracal is relatively short in length, with long legs and big feet. Its hindquarters are more developed than its forequarters.
  • Males weigh 26 to 40 pounds and are 16 to 20 inches in height. Females weigh 18 to 29 pounds and are 5 to 8 percent smaller.
  • The caracal's tail measures half the length of its body. Its head is short with powerful jaws.
  • Caracals have reddish-brown fur on their back and flanks, while their underparts are white with faint spots. They have dark markings on their cheeks and above their eyes edged with white.
  • The caracal's ears are its most noticeable feature. They are long and slender and topped with long tufts of black fur.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • The caracal is found in most regions of Africa, and from the Arabian peninsula through northwest India.
  • Caracals typically live in arid zones and dry savannas, preferring arid brush. However, they inhabit a variety of habitats, including plains, mountains and rocky hills, and venture into open grasslands at night. They seem to need woody vegetation for cover, but avoid dense evergreen forest.
  • Caracals typically use abandoned porcupine burrows and rock crevices for maternal dens.
III. DIET:
  • Caracals are carnivorous and prey primarily on birds, rodents and small antelope.
  • Finicky eaters, caracals discard the viscera (internal organs) of the mammals they catch, partially pluck the fur off hyraxes and larger kills, and avoid eating hair by shearing meat neatly from the skin. Yet they will eat the feathers of small birds and are tolerant of rotten meat.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Caracals are solitary and territorial.
  • They're mainly active at night, but also sometimes during the day and at twilight.
  • Caracals reproduce year-round, with most cubs born during the rains. Females have litters of one to four cubs after a gestation of 62 to 81 days.
  • Cubs are born in a nest lined with hair or feathers and open their eyes after nine days. They are very sensitive to light and noise for the first two weeks.
  • They begin walking in nine to 17 days; leave the nest and chase moving prey as early as 3 weeks old; start eating meat at 1 to 1.5 months old; and wean at 4 to 6 months.
  • The caracal kills big game by strangulation. It covers its kills with leaves or caches them in trees and returns repeatedly to feed.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • Caracals can jump and climb exceptionally well, which enables it to catch hyraxes better than probably any other carnivore.
  • They can jump up and take sleeping birds from their perches and can even bat them to the ground in mid-flight.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
  • Easily tamed, caracals sometimes assist hunters in India and Iran.
  • Caracals frequently climb over fences to eat chickens and other poultry, making them no friend of the farmers raising these birds.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
  • Some Asian subspecies of the caracal face problems, but in general the population is stable. In India, the caracal is profiting from tiger conservation efforts. It takes 20 caracal skins to make one coat, but they are not of high value, so trading is uncommon.



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