The bobcat is smaller than the Canada lynx, but about twice the size of a domestic cat. It has a gray to brown coat, black-tufted ears, whiskered face, and a stubby “bobbed” tail, from which it derives its name. Bobcats have a good sense of smell, as well as sharp hearing and vision. They are excellent climbers and will swim when they need to, but usually avoid water. However, they have been known to swim long distances across lakes. These cats are stealthy hunters and able to kill prey much larger than themselves, but usually hunt smaller game such as rabbits and mice. Bobcats can run at speeds up to 30 miles per hour and leap as far as 10 feet.
Height: 12-24 inches (at the shoulder)
Length: 18.7 – 49.2 inches (head and body). Tail, 3.5 – 7.9 inches
Mass: Males: 14-40 lbs. (avg. 21 lbs.) Females: 8.8 – 33.7 lbs. (avg. 15 lbs)
Life Span: 7-12 years in the wild, and up to 32 years in captivity
Bobcats primarily hunt rabbits and hares, but will also prey on insects, geese, small birds, chickens, rodents and deer. Prey type depends on habitat and location, as well as abundance and season. They are opportunistic predators and will readily vary its prey selection.
Bobcats are crepuscular, being most active during the dawn and dusk hours. They travel from 2-7 miles each night, along their regular route. However, during the fall and winter months, bobcats become more diurnal in response to their prey, becoming more active during the daytime in colder weather.
Range and Population:
Bobcats are found in wooded areas, deserts, forests, swamplands, and urban edge. Their ranges vary in size, with male ranges averaging 0.23 to 126 square miles, and females typically half that area. Bobcats are mostly solitary animals, but their ranges may overlap. The cats can be found throughout most of the United States, southern Canada and as far south as Oaxaca, Mexico. There may be as many as 725,000 – 1,020,000 bobcats remaining in the wild.
Gestation: 60-70 days
Litter size: 1-6 kittens
Bobcats usually begin breeding in their 2nd year and mating takes place from winter to early spring. Litter sizes range from 1-6 kittens, but average 2-4, which the females raise alone. Kittens open their eyes by the ninth or tenth day and are weaned by around two months old. They can usually hunt on their own by autumn of their first year, and leave their mothers shortly after that. However, some may stay with their mothers as late as the following spring.
Threats to Bobcats:
Bobcats have long been hunted and trapped for their fur, and for sport. In some populations, half of bobcat mortality can be attributed to regulated hunting. Habitat fragmentation also has a significant impact, because of reduced gene flow and movement between habitat patches. This affects bobcats in particular, due to their typically large home ranges. In urban habitats, the use of rodenticides has been shown to cause secondary poisoning when bobcats consume poisoned rats and mice.