A local Lake Hodges homes and Del Dios resident posted the following on the Del Dios Bulletin aka 'the bull':
"Had a good-sized bobcat in my yard 6:45 last evening (April 13, 2016). It grabbed either a quail or a rabbit (both were feeding at the spot a moment before and both were gone afterward) but because of the foliage all I could tell
was that something was hanging out of its mouth as it strolled off."
Bobcats are a very healthy part of the eco-system in around Lake Hodges in Escondido, California.
Bobcats, scientific name Lynx rufus, are the most widespread predator in North America, ranging from Mexico to Canada. Some researchers have suggested that the bobcat is a “keystone species.” A keystone species is one that has a disproportionate effect on the ecosystem that it lives in, relative to its biomass. Predators are commonly named as keystone species because their populations are relatively sparse, yet they exert considerable influence on lower levels of the food chain.
The bobcat is a generalist predator around Lake Hodges in Escondido, California -- this means that it has the ability to prey on a diverse range of prey species. This is due, in part, to its versatile size. The bobcat, roughly the same size as a coyote, is big enough to take down small deer and pronghorn antelope, but small and agile enough to capture small prey like the quail or rabbit mentioned in the Del Dios Bulletin post by a Lake Hodges home owner above. A study carried out by Idaho Fish and Game staff, published in a 1988 issue of “Northwest Science,” found that bobcats ate a total of 42 different species within a year in Oregon’s Cascade Ranges. Hares, black-tailed deer and beavers made up the bulk of the annual diet, but bobcats also ate a range of small mammals, birds, reptiles and even insects.
Top-down Ecosystem Control
As a top predator the bobcat is at, or near, the top of the food chain. This position is a critical one, because the bobcat exerts what is known as “top-down control” of ecosystems. Bobcats and other predators help to keep ecosystems balanced. In ecosystems that are short on predators, consumers lower in the food chain rapidly increase in population size (an uncontrolled rabbit population can decimate native flowers and grasses). This over-taxes food resources, leading to poorer condition of individuals and higher rates of starvation. Eventually, low birth rate and high mortality will cause consumer populations to crash, but in the meantime, the effects have filtered down to plant communities. Over-grazing by herbivores (like rabbits) can result in very low biomass of some plant species. This in turn affects invertebrate communities, and can inhibit nutrient cycling.