Caracal

Caracal caracal

The Caracal is the biggest and arguably fiercest of the small wildcats occurring in South Africa. Males may weigh up to 22kg and stand 45cm high at the shoulder, females are slightly smaller. They inhabit every imaginable habitat in the country, from the driest desert to temperate forests. Caracals prey mainly on small and medium-sized mammals, from rodents to antelope the size of impala. They’re extremely agile and can catch birds out of the air! They’ll also take reptiles (including venomous snakes) and other carnivores, like foxes and jackals. Caracals do not require regular access to drinking water.

Caracals are mainly active from dusk to dawn, although they may hunt throughout the day in inclement weather. By day they shelter in thickets or long grass. They’re solitary animals and any groups consist of either a female with her cubs or a female in oestrus being accompanied by a male. Males are territorial and their areas overlap the home ranges of several females.

Females give birth to litters of 1-6 cubs (usually 2 or 3) at any time of year. Popular den sites include thickets, hollow trees, animal burrows and rocky crevices. The female raises the cubs alone until they become independent when they’re about 10 months old. Caracals only rarely fall prey to bigger carnivores, and have a life expectancy in the wild of between 11 and 18 years.

Overall, the IUCN considers the Caracal to be of least concern, although several specific populations in various countries are declining and range from rare to threatened with local extinction. Caracals are widely distributed through Africa (except the equatorial forests), the Middle East and into the Indian subcontinent. In South Africa they can be found in every corner of the country – even in some of our biggest cities – despite being persecuted as killers of small livestock.

 

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57 thoughts on “Caracal

  1. Nature on the Edge

    Wonderful shots Dries. Theyโ€™re stocky but so powerful. Have you come across the Urban caracal project here in Cape Town – Dr Laurel Klein Serieys has been running it for a couple of years and finding interesting data – http://www.urbancaracal.org Itโ€™s quite startling that they live so successfully alongside the urban limits. I think they have collared up to 26 individuals to monitor their movements – amazing how far they travel. Weโ€™re blessed to have a couple of young rooikat still hunting dassies in our area after mom โ€˜Disaโ€™ was removed to another area after killing penguins.

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I am so envious of you having caracals in your garden, Liz, and console myself that it should happen to someone who appreciates and value the natural world as much as you do!
      I got to learn about the urban caracal project while planning our trip to Cape Point in December – fascinating work they’re doing and the results are astonishing!

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      1. Nature on the Edge

        Yes isnโ€™t itv amazing that these elusive cats have found an eco-niche living quietly along the urban edge. Tracking their travel distances was also interesting. Disa, the female who was hunting the penguins and was then trapped and relocated to Tokai found her way over the mountain, through Hout Bay and up Sentinel peak, raised two kits there, survived being caught in a snare and lives on. Feisty creatures.

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  2. petrujviljoen

    Nog nooit ‘n rooikat in lewende lywe gesien nie maar ek was gelukkig genoeg een aand vroeg, met skemer, om ‘n serval te sien. Stap so ewe verby oorkant die grondpaadjie, kyk my en stap aan. Was ‘n voorreg.

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  3. Rainsinn

    Wow… here’s another first for me. I haven’t seen a Caracal before and its interesting to see this gorgeous animal and learn so much about it. โค Thanks for sharing this. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      1. colonialist

        Actually, even leopards can do that. I nearly walked right up to one, once, until an ear twitched. It was one of the leopards skilled at concealing presence so nobody realises there are any in the area; e.g. they even leave livestock strictly alone.

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          1. colonialist

            Indeed; they concentrated on buck and baboons and also avoided being seen, day or night, even to the extent of turning away from lights after dark so that their eyes didn’t show. I’m sure that was learnt behaviour. By a spot of luck I discovered the Knysna ones were doing that, and I incorporated such habits into leopards that feature in my latest fantasy novel. There are also some isolated animals in KZN that probably use the same tricks: a pair up in The Dargle, and at least one lone one on the South Coast.

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  4. perdebytjie

    Jy het pragtige foto’s van die rooikat! Al is hulle volop, het ons nog bitter selde een gesien en ek het nog nie ‘n enkele foto nie. Loshande een van die mooiste katte.

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  5. John

    Fantastic pictures of the beautiful cat!๐Ÿ˜Š I have seen it in nature TV shows. They can kill a snake with a single blow with his paw on the head, and it has incredibly good reflexes!

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Those tufted ears really makes them stand out! The fact that they’re not endangered is a testament to their resilience, as some people really go out of their way to treat them as vermin.

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