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Bobcat Fact File

Lynx rufus

Credit: Public Domain

Weight

4-18.3kg

(8.8-40lb)

Length

47.5-125cm

(18.7-49.2in)

Lifespan

Wild 15 years

Captive 18 years

Diet

Carnivore

Rodents, Foxes, Fish

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

America's Bob-Tailed Cat!

The bobcat is named for the short, bobbed tail which is found at the end of their body. On top of the ear are iconic tufts of fur which lead to confusion with the other lynx species.

These cats are found in North America where they occur through the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Bobcats are efficient carnivores which will seek out prey such as rabbits and other rodents. They may also hunt other predatory species such as foxes.

This species is considered stable across its range. In some areas regulated hunting occurs for the fur trade with record prices for their pelt recorded in recent years. Their habitat has also been expanded as forests are cut down.

Read on to learn more about these majestic mammals.

Appearance

What does the Bobcat look like?

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.

On each foot they have short, retractile claws.

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.

Unlike other lynx species these animals do not have fur on their feet pads and as a result do not have protection when walking on snow.

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).

They are the smallest native cat to the United States.

These cats become larger the further North that they arrive.

Adaptations

How does the Bobcat survive in its habitat?


On top of the ears the bobcat has long ear tufts. These help to focus their hearing and will help them to find prey.

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Diet

What does the Bobcat eat?

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.

Their prey is variable across the year focusing on foods which are most available. For much of the year their main food source is rabbits.

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.

Learn more about the Bobcat in this video from BBC Earth on YouTube

Range

Where do you find the Bobcat?

The bobcat is found in North America. This species is found throughout the USA, Mexico and Canada.

In the United States this species can be found in all contiguous states except for Delaware. The species was removed from Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri during the early 1900s but have been able to recolonize these areas.

As forest is cleared in Canada these animals have been able to expand their range.

Habitat

Where can the Bobcat survive?

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.

At present the only habitat which they can not survive in is intensely cultivated areas.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Credit: Public Domain

Reproduction

How does the Bobcat produce its young?

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 their 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.

Two white spots are present on the back of the mother's ears. It is thought that the cubs will follow these as they move through their habitat.

It takes 2 years for the bobcat to be ready to breed. Females tend to mature before males.

Behavior

What does the Bobcat do during its day?

The bobcat lives a solitary lifestyle. They maintain a territory which they mark with faeces, urine and by clawing trees. A male will control a home range which overlaps with that of several females.


A crepuscular activity pattern is exhibited by the bobcat. They are most active during winter.

A range of vocalizations are produced by these animals. During breeding season they will produce a scream similar to that of domestic cats.

They can reach speeds of up to 48km/h (30mph).

Bobcats are able to swim but this is a rare occasion.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What stops the Bobcat from surviving and thriving?

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.

Increasing coyote populations across North America may further threaten the species through increased predation.

Populations of the bobcat are considered stable. Across the United States the total population is estimated at between 2.5 and 3.5 million.

During the 1960s and 1970s the species came under increasing threats from the fur trade. While this has since been regulated their is still high demand for their fur and in recent years prices have achieved record highs.

Despite this it appears there is no net loss to the species from this hunting and it is controlled across much of their range.

Another threat to the species is habitat loss. Increasing urbanization has also seen the species suffer from vehicle strikes at an increased rate. In some regions gene flow is also being restricted as roads isolate populations.

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Quick facts

There are 12 recognized subspecies of bobcat.


The bobcat regularly features in Native American mythology.


Bobcats are sometimes referred to as the red lynx, bay lynx, lynx cat or wildcat.

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Credit: Public Domain

References

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.

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2022. Bobcat. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/bobcat> [Accessed 31 January 2022].

Bobcat — Lynx rufus. Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Retrieved on January 31, 2022, from https://FieldGuide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=AMAJH03020

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