Bobcats can be found throughout much of North America from southern Canada to southern Mexico. In the United States bobcat densities are much higher in the southeastern region than in the western states.
Bobcats can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, semi-deserts, mountains, and brush land. They sleep in hidden dens, often in hollow trees, thickets, or rocky crevices.
Like all felids, bobcats are strict carnivores and stealthy hunters. They stalk their prey and pounce, giving their victim a killing bite to the back of the neck. They hunt rodents, rabbits, small ungulates, ground-dwelling birds, and sometimes reptiles. Bobcats occasionally eat small, domesticated animals and poultry.
Bobcats are usually about twice the size of a domestic cat weighing between 25 to 35 pounds with a length of about 2 to 3 feet long. Males are generally larger than females.
Bobcats breed just once a year in the early spring. Males and females only associate for the brief time required for courtship and copulation, and both males and females may have multiple partners. After a 60 to 70 day gestation period they give birth to an average of three kittens. Only the mother provides parental care to the young. Female bobcats bring meat to their young and teach them how to hunt after they are weaned. When the young cats are about 8 months old, and have developed the hunting skills to survive, they leave their mom for a solitary life.
Bobcats live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they may live into their twenties.
Like most felids, bobcats are solitary animals. The male and female interact almost exclusively during the mating season. These cats rarely vocalize, although they sometimes yowl and hiss during the mating season. Bobcats are basically terrestrial and nocturnal, although they are good climbers and are often active at dusk as well as during the night.
Bobcats are territorial, using urine, feces, and anal gland secretions to delineate home ranges that are one to several square kilometers in size. A successful male’s home range overlaps with those of several females, and may also overlap the territory of another male. The home ranges of females, which are smaller than those of the males, do not overlap one another.
Bobcats mark their territories with scent to repel intruders. They make various yowling sounds to communicate with one another during the breeding season. Like all felids, bobcats have excellent vision and hearing and a well-developed sense of smell.
Foxes, coyotes, and large owls occasionally prey upon bobcat kittens. Humans are the only real threat to adult bobcats.
Bobcats are important predators of many species of mammals and birds.
IUCN Red List:
No special status.
US Federal List:
Bobcats are listed in CITES Appendix II.
The subspecies Lynx rufus escuinapae (the Mexican bobcat) is listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This subspecies is confined to central Mexico.
There are probably almost one million bobcats living in the United States. In some areas they are quite rare, while in others they have stable and sometimes dense populations. Hence some states allow regulated hunting, while in others they are protected.
Ciszek, D. 2002. “Lynx rufus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 08, 2006 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lynx_rufus.html.