Caracal

Caracal (Felis) caracal

SUBFAMILY

Felinae

TAXONOMY

Felis caracal (Schreber, 1776), South Africa OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Desert lynx; French: Caracal: German: Caracal, Wustenluchs; Spanish: Caracal, lince africano.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Length 22-35 in (55-90 cm); tail 9-13 in (22-34 cm); weight 35-48 lb (16-22 kg). Uniform tawny brown to brick-red coat. Short face, large ears with black backs and 2 in (5 cm) black tufts. Dark facial markings on cheeks and above eyes, edged with white. Very long legs, with high hindquarters and big feet.

DISTRIBUTION

Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia from Arabia to northern India, and Russia.

HABITAT

Dry savanna and woodland, especially scrubby, arid habitat. Rarely in evergreen and montane forest.

BEHAVIOR

Solitary, territorial. Predominantly nocturnal, but also seen in daytime. Agile climber. Home ranges of males 12-26 mi2 (31-65 km2), females 1.5-12 mi2 (4-31 km2).

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Rodents, hares, hyraxes, small antelope and deer, and birds. Can take antelope up to size of young kudu, suffocating them with a throat bite. May (rarely) cache kill in tree. Can leap high to knock birds out of the air.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. Breeds year round, gestation 62-81 days, litter one to four. Kittens begin eating meat after 4-6 weeks, weaned at 4-6 months.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN. Population stable or expanding (in South Africa and Namibia local removal of jackals by farmers may benefit caracal).

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Once trained in India and Persia to catch game birds and deer. Thousands are killed because of predation on small livestock, especially in southern Africa. However, caracals quickly recolo-nize farmland. Hunting for skin and bushmeat may be a threat in west and central Africa. ♦

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