Friday, May 4, 2012

...The Continuing Story of the Bobcat Dissection...

If you're just joining my blog, head over to Backyard Beasts  written by John Van Niel to get some background information on this bobcat dissection that I am writing about. John has been my advisor for the past 2 years at FLCC, instructor, and definitely mentor. He's the one who helped push me into writing "publicly", so when he suggested we tag-team write a blog post, of course I jumped at it! (...also I wanted hits from his blog ;) ... ) I must mention again that this was a Wildlife Society club event that all students were invited to. I think at the most we had 35 students in the classroom, and several faculty/staff as well. It was an extremely rewarding for me, as I've spent a lot of my time planning and advertising events like this. So when people show up- it makes me feel like my time spent was worth it.

Photo credit: Melissa Miller

After we all carefully checked out the bobcat, who was in excellent condition besides being deceased, and despite having been killed by a vehicle, John spoke to all of us about some external anatomy. Again, check out John's entry for more of that. I just wanted to mention before getting into the dissection, that we talked about the skull. John brought with him a skull of a domestic cat for some perspective.

Bobcat and bobcat skull

Bobcat on left, domestic cat on right

Side view of bobcat and domestic cat

John then gloved up and made the first cut.


The following pictures are extremely graphic.

If you are uncomfortable with viewing blood, and a dead animal please do not continue. I would like to mention, even though John did, that this bobcat was hit by a car in the Finger Lakes, collected by a wildlife biologist who works for our state agency (DEC) and donated it to the college for students to learn from.

There were some questions about the pelt being saved, but John/the DEC didn't seem interested in saving it and then tanning it. So with no thoughts of being nice to the pelt, John cut in at the cheek.

John pointed out the gap the bobcat has in it's dentition, that the domestic cat lacks. The domestic has a little tiny tooth here. In some instances I'm sure a small bobcat and large domestic cat skull look very similar, except for the tooth or lack of.

John then invited students up to feel the tongue. It was very rough, like a 40 grit sandpaper.

The happy Dr. Van Niel preparing the bobcat to be weighed. We took guesses ranging from mine at 22lbs to 15lbs. The actual weight was 17lbs.

John then skinned a foreleg to show us the musculature and structure of the front paw.

A skinned paw and a furred paw. Cuter with fur on I think...

The bottom half of the bobcat was a little rough. That dark red colored is indicative of hemorrhage or internal bleeding. I think it's safe to say that this bobcat was hit on the hind end by the car.

John then handed over the scalpel to Professor of Biology, Clinton Krager. Clinton has more experience doing actual dissections in the classrooms, and knew a bit of the internal anatomy, so he was happy to take over.

He cracked open the rib cage, and started removing the organs and identifying them. I think that this part was awesome for students. All of use have either taken a General Biology class, or are IN that class right now, and the animals we've done dissections on are basically pickled. So it was very cool to have a semi-fresh specimen to look at.

The most interesting organ, in my opinion, that Clinton pulled out was the stomach. He said it felt full, so we were eager to see what was in it.

This is almost a complete little critter, perhaps a shrew. I know it's probably hard to see in a picture, but above my thumb are a front paw and back paw. The fur is still pretty attached to skin. This bobcat had a last meal at least.

All of the stomach contents. Alot of fur and bones...and to the left, a mouse tail! We found a few tails actually, perhaps they're not as digestible as the rest of the mouse, that's why they were left behind.

And one final picture of the "Dream Team" taking a last look at our bobcat.

I'll take a chance to speak on behalf of the rest of the students present: this was a kick-ass experience. We are so lucky to have faculty and staff that are just as enthusiastic about learning as we are. It's kind of the chicken and egg paradox. Are they enthusiastic so therefore we are? Or do we feed off their passion? Either way, it seems to be working for students and faculty alike. I'm REALLY going to miss this kind of stuff, I only hope I can convince a faculty member at Cobleskill to get elbow deep in a stinky dead animal :)


  1. Outstanding!

    What a great opportunity!

  2. Wow... There's been a dead bobcat next to a trail near my house for nearly 3 weeks now, and I've been watching it degrade. Around here, I was warned that wild cats can carry some kind of infectious agent (I'm too tired to remember what it is) that can (and has) killed people who handle their bodies. So, I haven't touched the bobcat... I am kind of hoping that his skull doesn't get carried too far away by carrion-eaters so that I can someday recover it.

    It does look like you had an amazing experience!

    1. KB- I've not heard of this infectious agent that the cats have, but this cat was frozen just after it was hit, and then defrosted in a cooler for days, so hopefully we avoided any decomp. I will have to ask John, Backyard Beasts, who actually did the dissection. He's a big cat-lover, he may know!

  3. Interesting! We have our swedish bobcat. Not so many though. We had hunting on them in March. They are very fond of taking our roes for feeding. If you get a bobcat in the area you can count on that you dont have any roes more.


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