The bobcat is a medium sized cat. They are named for their tail which is short and bobbed. This measures about 15cm (6in) long and has a black tip. The ears are tipped with a tuft of fur that is said to aid their hearing. The fur is coloured tawny, brown, beige, red, black or white. The underside of the bobcat is white as is the space around the lips. The body is patterned with dark spots. On the underside they are completely black. Animals in forests have less of these spots than those in deserts.
Bobcats measure 47.5 to 125cm (18.7 to 49.2in) from the head to the beginning of the tail. At the shoulder bobcats stand 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in). Males weigh in at 6.4 to 18.3kg (14 to 40lb) while females are lighter at 4 to 15.3kg (8.8 to 13.7lb). These cats get the larger the further North they live.
The bobcat is exclusively carnivorous. They feed on rabbits, hares, mice, birds, fish, insects and the occasional lizard. Bobcats have also been known to take down large prey items such as young deer, foxes, minks, domestic dogs and cats as well as skunks. These animals are also the largest predatory animal threat to endangered whooping cranes.
The bobcat adapts its hunting style to suit its varied prey items. They also vary their prey items depending on what is available. They are not particularly fussy and will feed on carrion.
Wild 12 years
Captive 25 years
The bobcat is found in North America. This species is found throughout the USA, Mexico and Canada.
Woodlands are the primary habitat of the bobcat. They can also be found in humid swamps, deserts and mountainous areas. At times they inhabit areas populated by humans.
The male bobcat becomes fertile from September and remains this way through the summer. The male finds a female during the winter and will mate with her up until February or March. The animals may bump, chase and ambush each other during courtship. It is said that bobcat needs to have a home range to successfully raise young.
Females will go off alone to have the kittens. A 60-70 day period goes by after a successful mating until the one to six kittens are born. Mum keeps them tucked away in the den as they are born blind. The eyes open after 10 days.
Bobcats first begin to explore outside the den after a month. By two months they transition from milk to meat. By the time they are three to five months old they are beginning to trek out with their mother and learning to hunt which they first do for themselves in the fall. Once this vital skill is learnt they will leave their mother.
It takes 2 years for the bobcat to be ready to breed.
The bobcat lives a solitary lifestyle. They maintain a territory which they mark with faeces, urine and by clawing trees.
A crepuscular activity pattern is exhibited by the bobcat. They are most active during winter.
Occasionally the bobcat will come under threat from a cougar, coyote or gray wolf. The kittens can also be picked off by owls, eagles and foxes. If food sources are low bobcats resort to eating the cubs.
There are 12 recognised subspecies of bobcat.
The bobcat regularly features in Native American mythology.
Bobcats are sometimes referred to as the red lynx or wildcat.
Public domain, Calibas
By docentjoyce [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Kelly, M., Morin, D. & Lopez-Gonzalez, C.A. 2016. Lynx rufus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T12521A50655874. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T12521A50655874.en. Downloaded on 04 May 2020.
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