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Caracal Lynx Information
Range and Habitat
The caracal, also known as the desert lynx, ranges throughout sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the rainforests, and in the Arabian peninsula, excluding the deserted areas. They inhabit arid country: woodlands, savannas, steppes, and acacia scrub.
The caracal resembles a lynx in that it has large black ear tufts, which can be 2 inches long! However, the caracal is smaller than the lynx. They are colored like the North American mountain lion (Puma concolor), with a short, dense, reddish brown pelt, white underparts and around their eyes and front of their muzzle, and black markings on their muzzle, and a lack of specific markings on the coat. Melanistic, or all-black, caracals are not unheard of. A small percentage of caracals in Israel are a greyish color. They also have a longer tail than most of the Lynx genus, and lack the large tufts of hair that project from the sides of their face like other lynxes. Their black ears have large white spots in the middle of the back of each ear, called an eyespot, which all cats have. It serves to signal to other felines the cat's mood; the spots are clearly present when the ears are laid backward so it may signal aggression. Their name is derived from the Turkish word "karakal" which means "black ears".
Their body and legs are slender. Their hind legs are noticeably longer than their front legs. Females are significantly smaller than the males, which are around 25% larger on average than the females. The subspecies from Turkmenestan has tufts of stiffer hairs on its paws.
In the wild, caracals will eat guinea fowl, desert partridges, hedgehogs, rodents, mongoose, duikers, dik-diks, mountain reedbuck, fawns of impala, bush-buck and other antelopes like greater kudus. Rock hyrax makes up roughly half of their diet. They will also eat some vegetation like grass and grapes. They are agile, and have been known to jump to catch birds. Humans in India train these cats to catch birds, hares, and small mammals, much like dogs. They have been known to kill small livestock like goats; in one documented account, a single caracal killed twenty-one goats! They are very agile and have been observed taking on prey many times their size, such as gazelle.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Male caracals live in a large territory with smaller females' territories surrounding it. Mating occurs year round, and during this time a female can have several partners. She mates with them in order of size and age of the male. Two cubs are born in an abandoned porcupine or aardvark burrow after a gestation period of 11 weeks. The female moves her young about once a day after they are one month old to avoid detection by predators. They open their eyes at a week old and start to walk around shortly afterwards. By 45 days they start to eat meat regularly. By six months, the young caracals are mature enough to leave their mother's territory to start territories of their own. Males may stray as far away as 90 km to establish a territory, but the females often stay close by, and their territory often overlaps their mother's.
Caracals tend to be nocturnal in the warmer areas of their range, and diurnal in the cooler areas. They are solitary, coming together only to mate. They will rest in dense vegetation or in a rock crevice. They are agile tree-climbers, and will climb a tree to escape dogs or take their kill up a tree like a leopard. Male home ranges are larger than females', and tend to overlap. Females' territories overlapped with each other about half. Males' territory ranges from 98-352 kmē, and the females' from 2-112 kmē. Caracals are fast runners, and are the fastest cats of their size.
The northern subspecies, L. c. michaelis is classified as Rare by the IUCN. All other subspecies are common and have a healthy, stable population. In fact, they are so common in some areas of their range that they are running into problems with farmers. In some areas of their range they are killed for their skin and meat by bush people. Their fur has little commercial value. The caracal is protected in the African countries of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, and in the Asian countries of India, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Elsewhere, hunting is permitted or else they have no legal protection. In South African and Namibia, they are control-hunted regularly.
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