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Lynx rufus

(subspecies: Lynx rufus californicus (Mearns))

bobcat 1

Physical Characteristics

The bobcat resembles other species of the Lynx genus, but is on average the smallest. Its coat is variable, 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 under parts.  Kittens are born well-furred and already have their spots.

The face appears wide due to ruffs of extended hair beneath the ears. Bobcat’s eyes are yellow with black pupils. The nose of the bobcat is pinkish-red, and it has a base color of gray or yellowish or brownish-red on its face, sides, and back. The pupils are round, black circles and will widen during nocturnal (active at night) activity to maximize light reception. The cat has sharp hearing and vision, and a good sense of smell. It is an excellent climber, and will swim when it needs to, but will normally avoid water.

The adult bobcat is 18.7 to 49 in (47.5 to 125 cm) long from head to the base of the tail, averaging 32.6 in (82.7 cm); the stubby tail adds 3.5 to 7.9 in (9 to 20 cm) and its “bobbed” appearance gives the species its name. An adult stands about 12 to 24 in (30 to 60 cm) at the shoulders. Adult males can range in weight from 14 to 40 lb (6.4 to 18.3 kg), with an average of 21 lb (9.6 kg); females at 8.8 to 34 lb (4 to 15.3 kg), with an average of 15 lb (6.8 kg). The bobcat is muscular, and its hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving it a bobbing gait. At birth, it weighs 0.6 to 0.75 lb (270 to 340 g) and is about 10 in (25 cm) in length. By its first birthday, it will reach about 10 lb (4.5 kg).


The bobcat is an adaptable animal. It prefers woodlands – deciduous, coniferous, or mixed – but unlike the other Lynx species, it does not depend exclusively on the deep forest. It ranges from the humid swamps of Florida to desert lands of Texas or rugged mountain areas. It will make its home near agricultural areas, if rocky ledges, swamps or forested tracts are present. The population of the bobcat depends primarily on the population of its prey; other principal factors in the selection of habitat type include protection from severe weather, availability of resting and den sites, dense cover for hunting and escape, and freedom from disturbance.

The bobcat’s range does not seem to be limited by human populations, as long as it can find a suitable habitat; only large, intensively cultivated tracts are unsuitable for the species. The animal may appear in back yards in “urban edge” environments, where human development intersects with natural habitats. If chased by a dog, it will usually climb up a tree.


The bobcat is able to go for long periods without food, but will eat heavily when prey is abundant. During lean periods, it will often prey on larger animals it can kill and return to feed on later. The bobcat hunts by stalking its prey and then ambushing it with a short chase or pounce. Its preference is for mammals about 1.5 to 12.5 lb (0.68 to 5.7 kg).

The bobcat hunts animals of different sizes, and will adjust its hunting techniques accordingly. With small animals, such as rodents, squirrels, birds, fish and insects, it will hunt areas known to be abundant in prey, and will lie, couch, or stand and wait for victims to wander close. It will then pounce, grabbing its prey with its sharp, retractable claws. For slightly larger animals, such as rabbits and hares, it will stalk from cover and wait until they come within 20 to 35 ft (6.1 to 11 m) before rushing in to attack. Less commonly, it will feed on larger animals, such as young ungulates (hoofed mammals) and other carnivores such as foxes, minks, skunks, small dogs and domesticated cats.

It has been known to kill deer, especially in winter when smaller prey is scarce, or when deer populations become more abundant. It stalks the deer, often when the deer is lying down, then rushes in and grabs it by the neck before biting the throat, base of the skull, or chest. On the rare occasions a bobcat kills a deer, it eats its fill and then buries the carcass under leaves, often returning to it several times to feed.


The bobcat is crepuscular (appearing or active in twilight). It keeps on the move from 3 hours before sunset until midnight, and then again from before dawn until 3 hours after sunrise. Each night it will move from 2 to 7 mi (3.2 to 11 km) along its habitual route. This behavior may vary seasonally, as bobcats become more diurnal during fall and winter in response to the activity of their prey, which are more active during the day in colder months.

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.

The sizes of bobcat’s home ranges vary significantly; In Southern California, home range sizes for males average about 4.5 square miles (7.1 square kilometers), while it was about 2.2 square miles (3.5 square kilometers) for females.

Like most felines, the bobcat is largely solitary, but ranges will often overlap. Unusual for cats, males are more tolerant of overlap, while females rarely wander into other’s ranges. Given their smaller range sizes, two or more females may reside within a male’s home range. When multiple male territories overlap, a dominance hierarchy is often established, resulting in the exclusion of some transients from favored areas.



Bobcats typically live to 6 or 8 years of age, with a few reaching beyond 10. The longest they have been known to live is 16 years in the wild and 32 years in captivity.

They generally begin breeding by their second summer, though females may start as early as their first year. Sperm production begins each year by September or October, and the male will be fertile into the summer. A dominant male will travel with a female and mate with her several times, generally from winter until early spring; this varies by location. In Southern California, bobcat mating season is in the winter, generally starting around December, lasting through January and potentially into February. The pair may undertake a number of different behaviors, including bumping, chasing, and ambushing. Other males may be in attendance, but remain uninvolved. Once the male recognizes the female is receptive, he grasps her in the typical felid neck grip and mates with her. The female may later go on to mate with other males, and males will generally mate with several females. During courtship, the otherwise silent bobcat may let out loud screams, hisses, or other sounds.

The female raises the young alone. 1 to 6, but usually 2 to 4, kittens are born in April or May, after roughly 60 to 70 days of gestation. Sometimes a second litter is born as late as September. The female generally gives birth in an enclosed space, usually a small cave or hollow log. The young open their eyes by the 9th or 10th day. They start exploring their surroundings at 4 weeks and are weaned at about 2 months. Within 3 to 5 months, they begin to travel with their mother. They will be hunting by themselves by fall of their first year, and usually disperse shortly thereafter.

Predators and survival techniques

The adult bobcat has few predators other than man, although it may be killed in interspecific conflict. Cougars and coyotes have killed adult bobcats and kittens. Kittens may be taken by several predators, including owls, eagles, and foxes, as well as other adult bobcats.

Diseases, accidents, hunters, automobiles, and starvation are the other leading causes of death. Juveniles show high mortality shortly after leaving their mothers, while still perfecting their hunting techniques.


Urban Carnivores – Bobcats;

Bobcat; from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia