Bobcats are found 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.
Bobcats can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, semi-deserts, mountains, and brushland. They sleep in hidden dens, often in hollow trees, thickets, or rocky crevices.
Bobcats range in length from 65 to 105 cm, with the tail adding an extra 11 to 19 cm (bobcats got their name because of their short tails). They are 45 to 58 cm high at the shoulder and weigh between 4 and 15 kg.
Bobcat fur can be various shades of buff and brown, with dark brown or black stripes and spots on some parts of the body. The tip of the tail and the backs of the ears are black. They have short ear tufts, and ruffs of hair on the side of the head, giving the appearance of sideburns.
The mating system of bobcats is similar to that of domestic cats. Males and females only associate for the brief time required for courtship and copulation, and both males and females may have multiple partners.
Bobcats usually mate in the early spring, although the timing is variable. After a gestation of 60 to 70 days, a litter of about 3 kittens is born. The young open their eyes for the first time when they are 10 days old, and they nurse through their second month. Young bobcats disperse during the winter, when they are about 8 months old.
All female eutherian mammals provide nourishment to their young before birth through the placenta. After the young are born, the mother's milk provides them with further nourishment. Female bobcats bring meat to their young and teach them how to hunt after they are weaned, staying with them for almost a year. Male bobcats do not help raise their offspring.
Bobcats live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they may live up to 32 years. (Kurta, 1995)
Like many felids, bobcats are solitary animals. The male and female interact almost exclusively during the mating season. 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.
Bobcats 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.
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.
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.
Bobcat kittens are preyed upon by foxes, coyotes, and large owls. Humans are the only real threat to adult bobcats. (Kurta, 1995)
Bobcats are important predators of many species of mammals and birds.
In the past bobcats were extensively hunted and trapped for their valuable pelts.
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.
On rare occasions humans are attacked by bobcats.
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.
Allison Poor (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Deborah Ciszek (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
an animal that mainly eats meat
Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
Nowak, R.M., and J.L. Paradiso. 1983. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.
IUCN - The World Conservation Union, 1996. "Species Survival Commision: IUCN Cat Specialist Group: Lynx rufus" (On-line). Accessed Feburary 2, 2001 at http://lynx.uio.no/catfolk/sp-accts.htm.
Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.