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Bobcats In The Wild

Updated on September 10, 2014

Bobcats Of North America Are Not Often Seen In The Wild.

The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family. With twelve recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, and most of the continental United States. The Bobcat is a vary adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, semi-desert, the edge of some urban areas, forest edges and swampland environments.

With a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, the Bobcat resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is smaller than the Canadian Lynx, and is about twice as large as the domestic cat.

It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby tail, where it it derives its name.

I have only seen two in some twenty years, both of which were at night.


The Bobcat is believed to have evolved from the Eurasian Lynx, which crossed into North America by way of the Bering land bridge. The first wave moved into the southern portion of North America, where it is believed they were soon cut off from the north by glaciers. This population evolved into modern Bobcats around 20,000 years ago.

Distinct Markings

The Bobcat resembles other species of the Lynx family but is on average the smallest of the four. Its coat is variable in color, though generally tan to grayish brown, with black streaks on the body and dark bars on the forelegs and tail. Its spotted patterning acts as camouflage. The ears are black-tipped and pointed, with short black tufts. There is generally an off-white color on the lips, chin, and underpants. Bobcats in the desert regions of the southwest have the lightest colored coats, while those in the northern, forested regions are darkest. Kittens are born well furred and already have their spots.

The face appears wide due to ruffs of extended hair under the ears. The fur is brittle but is quite long and dense. The nose of the Bobcat is pinkish-red, and it has a base color of gray, yellowish, or brownish red on its face, sides, and back. Bobcat eyes are yellow with black pupils.

The adult male Bobcat is 28 to 40 inches long, averaging 35 inches with a stubby 4 to 7 inches tail, which has a "bobbed" appearance and gives the species its name.

An adult stands about 20 to 24 inches at the shoulders. Adult males usually range from 16 to 30 pounds and females average about 20 pounds. They are muscular, and its hind legs are longer than its front legs, which creates a bobbing gait.

Bobcats Main Food Sources

The Bobcat keeps on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise.

Each night it will move from 2 to 7 miles along its habitual areas in search of food.

This behavior may vary seasonally in response to the activity of their prey.

The Bobcat hunts animals of many different sizes, and will adjust its hunting accordingly. With small animals, like rodents, squirrels, birds, fish and insects, it will hunt in areas known to have abundant prey, and will lie, crouch, or stand and wait for victims to wander close.

It will then pounce, grabbing its prey with its sharp, retractable claws.

For the larger animals, such as rabbits and hares, it will stalk from cover and wait until they come within 20 to 35 feet before rushing in to attack.

Less commonly, it will feed on larger animals such as foxes, minks, skunks, small dogs and domesticated cats.

Bobcats are also occasional hunters of livestock and poultry. Bobcat’s kills of 11,100 sheep in 2004 were recorded.

It has been known to kill deer, especially in winter when smaller prey is scarce or when deer populations become more abundant. They often attack when the deer is lying down, where it rushes in and grabs it by the neck before biting through the throat, skull, or chest. They will bury what they do not consume.

Range And Shelter

Bobcat activities are confined to well-defined territories, which vary in size depending on gender and the distribution of prey. The home range is marked with feces, urine scent, and by clawing prominent trees in the area. In its territory the Bobcat will have numerous places of shelter: usually a main den, and several auxiliary shelters on the outer extent of its range, such as hollow logs, brush piles, thickets, or under rock ledges. Its den smells strongly of the Bobcat.

Reproduction And Life Span.

1.The female raises the young alone.

2. One to six, but usually two to four is more normal, kittens are born in April or May, after roughly 60 to 70 days of gestation.

3. The female generally will give birth in some sort of enclosed space, usually a small cave or hollow log.

4 The young open their eyes normally by the ninth or tenth day.

5.They start exploring their surroundings at four weeks and she will wean them at about two months.

6. Within three to five months they begin to travel with their mother.

7.They will start hunting by themselves by fall of their first year and usually leave their mother shortly thereafter.

Bobcats typically live to six or eight years of age, with a few have been known to reach beyond ten years.

The longest they have been known to live is16 years in the wild and 32 years in captivity.

Quotes from Wisconsin DNR

"DNR Calls Black Bear, Bobcat Reporting Site a Success

Wisconsin Ag Connection - 08/03/2011

The first year of an online site developed by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to collect reports of black bear and bobcat sightings from citizens around the state has produced more than 800 reports

Meanwhile, more than 300 bobcats have been reported via the online reporting site by 170 individuals. Unlike black bears, bobcats are to be reported statewide. Bobcats have been reported in 56 of 72 counties, in which only eight percent of observations report sightings of multiple bobcats. Bobcats were observed in upland forests followed by roads/roadsides most frequently.

Trail cameras--often placed in the woods as scouting tools or as a hobby--accounted for 47 percent of bobcat observations. These photographs are especially valuable for documenting bobcats as they are secretive animals and tracking their distribution is often difficult. Photos of bobcats or black bears can be sent to wildlife management directly from the reporting form. All photos can be viewed on the department's trail camera gallery."

Additional information can be obtained at the

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Bobcat News

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    • WildFacesGallery profile image


      8 years ago from Iowa

      Overall a very thorough lens. Well done! Though I've not actually seen a bobcat in the wild I know we have some in the area.


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