Smaller than the Canadian Lynx, their close cousins, Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are still much larger than most domestic cats. Bobcats’ general colorations are usually yellow or reddish-brown, dotted with numerous dark brown or black spots. Bobcats can grow to be 30 pounds, but most are around 20 pounds in weight. Adults normally have head and body lengths between 2.5 and 3 feet, with relatively short tails of around half of a foot long. In fact, “bobtails” refer to cats with stubby tails. Bobcats’ tracks are typically easy to identify as, though they resemble those of domestic cats, they are generally significantly larger. Due to their lurking, secretive natures, Bobcats are associated with fog in Native American mythology, the opposite of their spacy, every-which-way counterparts, the Wind and the Coyote.
Bobcats are most active at dawn and dusk, and may travel several miles at a time on their hunts. Although Bobcats usually hunt small mammals such as rabbits, they well kill and dine on a wide variety of meat, from small insects to birds to rodents depending on availability. In fact, they have even been known to kill deer, sheep, and goats that are much larger than they are. Known more for sprinting and lunging than endurance running capabilities, Bobcats will lie and wait for prey, and then pounce upon them in a surprise attack. In fact, Bobcats are known to be able to jump more than ten feet in distance from a stationary position, up to 3-4 times the lengths of their bodies.
Habitat and Range
Bobcats can be found living across much of Mexico, the United States, and southern Canada. They are considered to be a species of “least concern”, as there are believed to be 1 Million or more living on the North American continent. Although they are still trapped and hunted for their meat and fur in many places, their hunting prowess and adaptability to a wide range of habitats have left them less affected by climate change and human land development than many other more vulnerable species. Nonetheless, there are still concerns for the species, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has placed them on a list of species in need of close monitoring, and one whose hunting should be regulated.
Like most felines, Bobcats are solitary creatures. They will mark their territory through a variety of means, including scratching claw marks into trees, urinating, and defecation. The fact that female bobcats tend to be more territorial than males, however, is in fact a rarity among cats. Bobcats can fight to the death at times, and are often preyed upon by larger cats, such as cougars, as well as wolves and other large canines.
Females normally reach sexual maturity in their second year of life, and will breed for the first time the first summer thereafter. Males produce most of their fertile sperm during certain times of the year, and most mating occurs in February and March. Gestation lasts between 9 and 10 weeks, and litters generally have between 2 and 6 kittens. One litter per year is most common, but second annual litters are possible. Bobcats are weaned at two months old, and can travel with their mothers at around four months. Within 2-3 months from that time, kittens will be hunting on their own, and will leave their mothers’ sides not long thereafter. Bobcats tend to live to 10 to 12 years of age in the wild.