United States / Canada
|Est. World Population:
|U.S. ESA Status:
||30 -35 in
||4 - 7 in
||17 - 23 in
||20 - 35 lbs
||12 - 13 yrs in the Wild
||19 - 25 yrs in Captivity
||12 mos (Females)
||24 mos (Males)
||1 - 4
||52 - 69 days
The Bobcat, possibly the most successful wild cat species in North America, is more easily recognized than many other small wild cats. Their soft, dense coat is light grey to reddish brown, and they are randomly barred and spotted with black or dark reddish brown. The fur along the middle of the back is usually darker, while the underparts are whitish, and also spotted. The short ‘bobbed’ tail, approximately 4 - 7 inches long, is marked with several indistinct dark bands, and black tipped only on the topside. The bob tail is possibly a past adaptation to cold conditions. Bobcats are short stocky cats with muscular legs, their hind legs being slightly longer than their forelegs. Their relatively high shoulder height and thick fur make them appear much larger than they really are. The large ears are black on the outside, with a white central spot, and their eyes are a yellowish brown. Their ear tufts, if present, are much smaller than those of the Lynx canadensis, as is the ruff framing their face. The largest bobcats are found in Canada, and the smallest in Mexico.
- Southwest United States
- California & Nevada
- Central Mexico
- British Colombia
- Southern United States
- Rocky Mountains
- Baja California
- Northeast & Central United States
- Northwest & Central United States
- Texas & Northern Mexico
The majority of the world’s bobcats are found in the United States, where they range through a wide variety of habitats, including boreal coniferous and mixed forests in the north, bottomland hardwood forest and coastal swamp in the south-east, and desert and scrubland in the south-west. In the west, they have been trapped at elevations up to 8500 ft. Only large, intensively cultivated areas appear to be unsuitable habitat. Areas with dense understory vegetation and high prey density are most intensively selected by bobcats. In Mexico, bobcats are found in dry scrubland and forests of pine and oak, principally in the mountainous northern and central parts of the country, and not in the tropical south.
Southern Canada represents the northern limit of bobcat range. Bobcat feet are smaller than those of the lynx and lack the large furry pads. In areas where the two cats met, such as Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island, the more aggressive bobcat has displaced the lynx. A northward expansion of the bobcat’s range has taken place over the past century, along with a corresponding northward retreat of the southern boundary of the lynx’s range, in association with the clearing for agriculture of mature conifer forests in the region.
Biomes: temperate forest & rainforest, temperate grassland, chaparral, desert, mountains
Nearctic: Throughout North America from southern Canada to southern Mexico. In the United States population densities are much higher in the southeastern region than in the western states.
Gestation is 50 - 70 days, with one to six, usually two to four, kittens being born in a den, hollow log, under a rock ledge or in dense thickets. The kittens are born with faint marks on their back and sides, and dark streaks on their faces that fade as they grow. They open their eyes after about nine days. They nurse for about three to four months, and at five months of age the mother takes them out hunting. They stay with her until the next breeding season. Bobcats are sexually mature at about one year for the females, and two years for the males. Young males disburse and travel long distances in search of an unoccupied territory, while females often settle near or partially within the range of their mother. They have been known to live over 33 years in captivity, and 12 - 13 years in the wild.
Food & Hunting:
Bobcats are strictly meat eaters. Stealthy hunters, they stalk their prey, then pounce and (if successful) kill with a bite to the vertebrae of the neck. They hunt rodents, rabbits, small ungulates, large ground birds, and sometimes reptiles. They occasionally eat small domesticated animals and poultry.
Like many felids, bobcats are solitary animals. The male and female interact almost exclusively during the mating season. They are territorial, using urine, feces, and anal gland secretions to deliniate 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. These cats rarely vocalize, although they often 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.
On a regional level, the bobcat is totally protected in ten USA states; in Canada hunting and trade is regulated; and in Mexico hunting is regulated in five states and shooting of suspected livestock predators is permitted. The degree to which these little cats have been studied and managed in North America makes them probably the most thoroughly examined species in international trade today. CITES has placed them on Appendix II.
Bobcats occasionally eat small domesticated animals, which has resulted in attempts to eradicate them in some areas. In the southeastern United States bobcats are becoming increasingly habituated to urban and suburban settings, though their reclusive ways make it unlikely that they will be seen.