Observations of Bobcats, Lynx rufus, Hunting Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs, Cynomys ludovicianus, in Western South Dakota


  • Daniel S. Licht National Park Service, 231 E. St. Joseph Street, Rapid City, South Dakota, 57701




Black-tailed Prairie Dog, Cynomys ludovicianus, Bobcat, Lynx rufus, hunting, predation, tactic, South Dakota


There is a paucity of scientific literature describing Bobcat (Lynx rufus) hunting strategies. I document 13 observations of Bobcats hunting Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) in western South Dakota. In all cases the Bobcats stationed themselves next to a prairie dog mound in an attempt to ambush prairie dogs emerging from their burrows. In eight cases the Bobcats successfully captured a prairie dog emerging from the burrow, in one case the Bobcat turned and captured a prairie dog that had walked up behind it, and in the other cases the Bobcats lunged at the burrow openings, but did not capture a prairie dog. There were two variations of the tactic: in some cases Bobcats entered a colony prior to prairie dog emergence and stationed themselves next to a mound, whereas in other cases Bobcats stationed themselves next to a burrow that a prairie dog had just escaped to. One Bobcat appeared to have waited next to the same mound for at least 7.5 hr. Prairie dogs may comprise a large portion of a Bobcat's winter diet in landscapes where prairie dog colonies exist in close proximity to badlands or woody cover.