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Overview

Brief Summary

Description

"The Bobcat is the most widely distributed native cat in North America. Bobcats occupy many habitat types, from desert to swamp to mountains. They are mostly nocturnal predators, taking quarry ranging in size from mouse to deer. Rabbits and hares make up a large part of the bobcat's diet. Like Lynx, male and female Bobcats maintain territories by scent-marking. An individuals territory does not overlap with another Bobcats of the same sex, but females home ranges can fall within the territories of males. Females breed sooner than males, at about one year of age; males are ready to breed when they are about two. One litter, with an average of three kittens, is born each year."

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  • Original description: "Schreber, J.C.D., 1777.  in Schreber's Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur mit Beschreibungen, Wolfgang Walther, Erlangen, 7 volumes, 1774-1846; 3(25):pl. 109.B[1777]; text 3(24):412[1777]."
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Distribution

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.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Range Description

Bobcats occur mostly in the United States, but also into southern Canada and northern Mexico. Historically, bobcats ranged throughout the contiguous US, but were extirpated from parts of the midwest and East coast (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002), although they appear to be recolonizing or becoming more abundant (Govt of US 2007). Their range in Canada has been expanding northward with forest clearance (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). While generally favoring low and mid-elevations, in the western US they have been trapped at elevations up to 2,575 m (Nowell and Jackson 1996). In Mexico, radio-collared bobcats were located at 3,500 m on the Colima Volcano in western Mexico (Burton et al. 2003).
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Central Mexico north through much of the contiguous U.S. to southern Canada. There has been a reduction in range, primarily in the northern part, associated with agriculture and the removal of forests (McCord and Cardoza 1982).

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Geographic Range

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.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Bobcats occur from southern Canada south almost throughout the
contiguous United States to southern Mexico. They do not occur in most
of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri. Bobcat range is
gradually expanding northward in Canada as boreal forests become
fragmented by farming, logging, and settlement [6,17]. The current
distribution of the subspecies was not described in the literature.
  • 17. Hall, E. Raymond. 1981. The mammals of North America. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1271 p. [14765]
  • 6. Boyle, Katherine A. 1987. Habitat suitability index models: bobcat. Biol. Rep. 82 (10.147). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 16 p. [11712]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

More info on this topic.

This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
10 Wyoming Basin
11 Southern Rocky Mountains
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

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Occurrence in North America

AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA
ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA
MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM
NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD
TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY
AB BC MB ON SK MEXICO

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Physical Description

Morphology

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.

Range mass: 4 to 15 kg.

Range length: 65 to 105 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Average basal metabolic rate: 23.446 W.

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Physical Description

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.

Range mass: 4 to 15 kg.

Range length: 65 to 105 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Average basal metabolic rate: 23.446 W.

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Size

Length: 125 cm

Weight: 31000 grams

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Size in North America

Length:
Average: 869 mm males; 786 mm females
Range: 475-1,252 mm males; 610-1,219 mm females

Weight:
Average: 12 kg males; 9 kg females
Range: 7.2-31 kg males; 3.8-24 kg females
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Ecology

Habitat

Sierra Juarez and San Pedro Martir pine-oak forests Habitat

This taxon can be found in the Sierra Juarez and San Pedro Martir pine-oak forests. The ecoregion is located in two mountain ranges in the state of Baja California, Mexico: the Sierra de Juarez and the Sierra de San Pedro Martir. Both mountain ranges belong to the physiographical province of Baja California, and constitute the northernmost elevated peaks of the Baja Peninsula. The mountainous range that descends into a large portion of Baja California becomes more abrupt at Juarez and San Pedro Martir; the eastern slope is steeper than the western. Altitudes range between 1100-2800 meters. The granitic mountains of Juarez and San Pedro Martir have young rocky soils and are poorly developed, shallow, and low in organic matter.

Dominant trees in the ecoregion are: Pinus quadrifolia, P. jeffreyi, P. contorta, P. lambertiana, Abies concolor, and Libocedrus decurren. The herbaceous stratum is formed by Bromus sp. and Artemisia tridentata. Epiphytes and fungi are abundant throughout the forests.

Characteristic mammals of the ecoregion include: Ornate shrew (Sorex ornatus), Puma (Puma concolor), Fringed Myotis bat (Myotis thysanodes), California chipmunk (Tamias obscurus), Bobcat (Lynx rufus), Coyote (Canis latrans), San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis) and Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis).

Numerous birds are present in the ecoregion, including the rare Bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), California condor (Gymnogyps californianus), Pinyon jay (Gymnohinus cyanocephalus), and White-breasted nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).

A number of different reptilian taxa are found in these oak-pine forests; representative reptiles here are: the Banded rock lizard (Petrosaurus mearnsi); Common checkered whiptail (Cnemidophorus tesselatus), who is found in sparsely vegetated areas; Coast horned lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum), often found in locales of sandy soil, where individuals may burrow to escape surface heat; Night desert lizard (Xantusia vigilis), who is often found among bases of yucca, agaves and cacti; and the Baja California spiny lizard (Sceloporus zosteromus).

The Pacific chorus frog (Pseudacris regilla) is an anuran found within the Sierra Juarez and San Pedro Martir pine-oak forests as one of its western North America ecoregions of occurrence. The only other amphibian in the ecoregion is the Western toad (Anaxyrus boreas).

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California Montane Chaparral and Woodlands Habitat

This taxon can be found in the California montane chaparral and woodlands, a near coastal ecoregion in Central and Southern California, USA. This ecoregion is disjunctive, with a major element in Southern California and another along the Monterey County coast. The ecoregion encompasses most of the Transverse Range that includes the San Bernardino Mountains; San Gabriel Mountains; portions of the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains; Topatopa Mountains; San Jacinto Mountains; the Tehachapi, Greenhorn, Piute, and Kiavah Mountains that extend roughly northeast-southwest from the southern Sierra Nevada; and the Santa Lucia Range that parallels the coast southward from Monterey Bay to Morro Bay.

The California montane chaparral and woodland ecoregion consists of a complex mosaic of coastal sage scrub, lower chaparral dominated by chamise, upper chaparral dominated by manzanita, desert chaparral, Piñon-juniper woodland, oak woodlands, closed-cone pine forests, yellow pine forests, sugar pine-white fir forests, lodgepole pine forests, and alpine habitats. The prevalence of drought-adapted scrub species in the flora of this ecoregion helps distinguish it from similar communities in the Sierras and other portions of northern California. Many of the shared Sierra Nevadan species typically are adapted to drier habitats in that ecoregion, Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) being a good example.

Oak species are an important component of many chaparral and forest communities throughout the ecoregion. Canyon Live Oak, Interior Live Oak, Tanbark Oak (not a true Quercus species), Engelmann Oak, Golden-cup Oak, and Scrub Oak are some examples. Mixed-conifer forests are found between 1371 to 2896 meters elevation with various combinations and dominance of incense cedar, sugar pine, and white fir, Jeffrey Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and mountain juniper. Subalpine forests consist of groves of Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis), Lodgepole Pine, and Jeffrey Pine. Very old individual trees are commonly observed in these relict subalpine forests. Within this zone are subalpine wet meadows, talus slope herbaceous communities, krumholz woodlands, and a few small aspen groves.

In addition to these general vegetation patterns, this ecoregion is noted for a variety of ecologic islands, communities with specialized conditions that are widely scattered and isolated and typically harbor endemic and relict species. Examples include two localities of Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata) on serpentine soils, scattered vernal pools with a number of endemic and relict species, and isolated populations of one of North America’s most diverse cypress floras, including the rare Gowen Cypress (Cupressus goveniana goveniana) restricted to two sites on acidic soils in the northern Santa Lucia Range, Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) found only at two coastal localities near Monterey Bay, and Sargent Cypress (Callitropsis sargentii LR/LC) restricted to serpentine outcrops. Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) is also restricted to three coastal sites near Monterey Bay.

The ecoregion is also home to a few endemic or near-endemic mammalian vertebrates, such as the White-eared Pocket Mouse (Perognathus alticolus EN), a mammal known only to two disjunct mountain ranges in southern California: San Bernardino Mountains in San Bernardino County (ssp. alticolus), and the Tehachapi Mountains, in Kern, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. The near-endemic fossorial Agile Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys agilis) is found in the southern disjunctive unit of the ecoregion, and is known only to the Los Angeles Basin and foothills of San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains in Ventura, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties north to Santa Barbara County and through the southern Sierra Nevada, including Mount Pinos, Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains, and northern San Fernando Valley. Non-endemic mammals found in the ecoregion include Botta's Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae) and Trowbridge's Shrew (Sorex trowbridgii). Some larger vertebrate predators can be found in the ecoregion, including Puma (Puma concolor), Bobcat (Lynx rufus), Coyote (Canis latrans), and Ringtails (Bassariscus astutus).

The ecoregion boasts five endemic and near-endemic amphibians, largely Plethodontid salamanders. Some specific salamander taxa found here are the endemic Tehachapi Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps stebbinsi VU), known from isolated sites in the Caliente Creek drainage, Piute Mountains, and Kern County, California along with scattered populations in the Tehachapi Mountains to Fort Tejon, Kern County; the near-endemic Blackbelly Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps nigriventris); the Monterey Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii); the Channel Islands Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps pacificus), endemic to a narrow range restricted solely on Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel islands; and the Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris), found only in California and Baja California. A newt found here is the Coast Range Newt (Taricha torosa). Anuran taxa in the ecoregion include the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylii NT); the Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog (Rana muscosa EN), a California endemic occurring in several disjunctive populations; and the Northern Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora).

The California montane chaparral and woodlands ecoregions contains a number of reptiles such as the Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum), who ranges from Northern California to Baja California. Also found here is the Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus); the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); the Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata); and the Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana). The Two-striped Garter Snake (Thamnophis hammondii) is a restricted range reptile found near-coastally from Monterey County, California southward to Baja California.

The California Condor once inhabited much of the ecoregion, with the western Transverse Range acting today as a refuge for some of the last wild populations, after considerable conservation efforts, especially in the Los Padres National Forest. The Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni NT) is found in coastal areas of the ecoregion.

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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.

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; mountains

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
In the US, the bobcat ranges through a wide variety of habitats, including boreal coniferous and mixed forests in the north, bottomland hardwood forest and coastal swamp in the south-east, and desert and scrubland in the south-west. Only large, intensively cultivated areas appear to be unsuitable habitat. Areas with dense understory vegetation and high prey density are most intensively selected by bobcats (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The requisite features of bobcat habitat typically include areas with abundant rabbit and rodent populations, dense cover, and shelters that function as escape cover or den sites (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). In Mexico, bobcats are found in dry scrub and grassland, as well as tropical dry forest including pine, oak and fir (Monroy-Vilchis and Velazquez 2003, Arzate et al. 2007, C. Lopez-Gonzalez pers. comm. 2007).

Like its close relative Lynx canadensis the bobcat preys primarily on lagomorphs (rabbits), but is much less of a specialist. Rodents are commonly taken, and bobcats are capable of taking larger prey, including young ungulates (Nowell and Jackson 1996, Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).

Home ranges vary with ecological setting, from 6 km² for female bobcats in southern California to 325 km² for male bobcats in upstate New York. Bobcats in northern and western portions of the United States are consistently larger than those in the south, possibly because the warmer climates provide a less variable prey base (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). Density estimates include 48/100 km² in Texas (Heilbrun et al. 2006); 25/100 km² in Arizona (Lawhead 1984); 25-30/100 km² in NW Mexico (Moreno et al. in press); <9/100 km² in Idaho (Knick 1990); and 11/100 km² in Virginia (minimal estimate, M. Kelly pers. comm. 2007). Bobcat densities in the northern parts of their range are generally lower than in the south (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002). However, the first density estimate for bobcats in Mexico is low, at five individuals per 100 km² (Arzate et al. 2007).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Comments: Various habitats including deciduous-coniferous woodlands and forest edge, hardwood forests, swamps, forested river bottomlands, brushlands, deserts, mountains, and other areas with thick undergrowth. Large tracts of habitat are most favorable. Primarily terrestrial. When inactive, occupies rocky cleft, cave, hollow log, space under fallen tree, etc.; usually changes shelter daily. Young are born in a den in a hollow log, under a fallen tree, in a rock shelter, or similar site.

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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.

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland ; chaparral ; forest ; mountains

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Cover Requirements

More info for the term: cover

Denning and resting cover - Habitat features such as thickets, stumps,
logging debris, and various types of rock features serve as denning
sites and resting areas for bobcats [6]. Rock piles or broken rocky
ledges provide important den sites and shelter for bobcats, especially
in the West. Rocky areas were the preferred den sites of bobcats in
easteren Idaho [3]. In California small rocky areas were often used as
denning and resting sites [48]. During periods of heavy rain or high
temperatures, bobcats used these areas for shelter almost exclusively.
Bailey [2] noted the importance of rock piles and caves for rearing
young and for refuge in severe weather. In the northern part of the
bobcat's range, where winters are often severe, bobcats may require
underground dens to survive [3].

Bobcats also use brush piles, hollow trees, and logs as rest sites and
dens. Bobcat rest areas have frequently been found under low-hanging
conifer boughs [7]. Zezulak and Schwab [48] noted bobcats resting under
bushes and next to fallen Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) in the Mojave
Desert. In the relatively moderate climate of the Southeast, features
such as thickets, hollow stumps, and logging debris offer adequate cover
for both resting and denning [6].

Travel and loafing cover - Bottomland hardwoods are often used for
loafing and travel, possibly because the closed canopy and dense
midstory of these areas supply shade during periods of high temperatures
[6].

Foraging cover - Bobcats often hunt in open to semiopen areas. Bobcat
prey are generally less common in forested cover types than in
shrub/grass-forb cover types. Within the shrub/grass-forb cover types,
shrub patches or thickets are necessary cover for bobcat prey.
Favorable environments for bobcat prey (e.g., cotton rats [Sigmodon spp.]
and cottontail rabbits [Sylvilagus spp.]) in the Southeast are generally
available on clearcuts and young (< 5-year) pine plantations [6,57].
  • 2. Bailey, Theodore N. 1974. Social organization in a bobcat population. Journal of Wildlife Management. 38(3): 435-446. [25141]
  • 3. Bailey, Theodore N. 1981. Den ecology, population parameters and diet of eastern Idaho bobcats. In: Blum, L. G.; Escherich, P. C., eds. Bobcat research conference: Proceedings; 1979 October 16-18; Front Royal, VA. NWF Science and Technical Series No. 6. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 62-69. [24985]
  • 48. Zezulak, D. S.; Schwab, R. G. 1980. Bobcat biology in a Mojave Desert community. Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-54-R-12, Job IV-4. [Sacramento, CA]
  • 57. Rolley, Robert E.; Warde, William D. 1985. Bobcat habitat use in southeastern Oklahoma. Journal of Wildlife Management. 49(4): 913-920. [25212]
  • 6. Boyle, Katherine A. 1987. Habitat suitability index models: bobcat. Biol. Rep. 82 (10.147). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 16 p. [11712]
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]

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Preferred Habitat

More info for the terms: cover, hardwood, selection, vines

Bobcats are adapted to a wide variety of habitats including swamps,
deserts, and mountain ranges [6,7]. Rollings [35] stated that prey
abundance, protection from severe weather, availability of rest areas
and cover, and freedom from human intrusion were the key factors in
bobcat habitat selection in Minnesota.

Typical bobcat habitat in the North is broken country including swamps,
bogs, conifer stands, and rocky ledges. Ledges appear to be the most
important terrain feature in bobcat habitat in the northern portion of
the range, with the only satisfactory replacement being conifers in bogs
and swamps. Courtship activities are often centered around ledges [7].
In Massachusetts bobcat courtship was invariably performed in the
vicinity of rocky ledges. Specific habitat requirements for courtship
have not been reported elsewhere [6].

In the South bobcats are common in mixed forest and agricultural areas
that have a high proportion of early to mid-successional stages [6,7].
In the hardwood bottomlands of Louisiana, Hall and Newsom [18] found
that mid-successional stages on cutover areas, characterized by
saplings, vines, and dense briar palmetto (Serenoa spp.), were the
centers of bobcat activity.

In the West bobcats prefer rocky canyons at elevations from 4,593 to
6,890 feet (1,400-2,100 m) with ledges and areas of dense vegetation.
In the southwestern and western United States, bobcats are adapted to
even the driest deserts if shade is available [37].

Home range - Bobcat home range estimates vary from 0.23 square mile (0.6
sq km) for California to 78 square miles (201 sq km) for Minnesota.
Females generally have smaller home ranges than males. The home ranges
of male and female bobcats may overlap, but home ranges of females
rarely overlap with each other. Seasonal range differences may also
occur. Winter ranges of male bobcats in California were up to 41
percent smaller than summer ranges. Female bobcats showed reductions in
their home range size up to 70 percent over the same period [7].
  • 18. Hall, Harlan T.; Newsom, John D. 1976. Summer home ranges and movements of bobcats in bottomland hardwoods of southern Louisiana. Proceedings, Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 30: 427-436. [25127]
  • 35. Rollings, Clair T. 1945. Habits, foods and parasites of the bobcat in Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management. 9(2): 131-145. [24986]
  • 37. Spowart, Richard A.; Samson, Fred B. 1986. Carnivores. In: Cooperrider, Allan Y.; Boyd, Raymond J.; Stuart, Hanson R., eds. Inventory and monitoring of wildlife habitat. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Service Center: 475-496. [13526]
  • 6. Boyle, Katherine A. 1987. Habitat suitability index models: bobcat. Biol. Rep. 82 (10.147). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 16 p. [11712]
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]

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Associated Plant Communities

More info for the terms: cover, density, hardwood, shrub, shrubs, tree

Bobcats are found in a wide variety of plant communities including
coniferous forest, deciduous forest, mixed forest, the Everglades,
prairie and other grasslands, chaparral, sagebrush (Artemisia spp.)
scrubland, creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) scrubland, and mesquite
(Prosopis spp.) scrub [1].

Bobcats do show some plant community preferences. They commonly occur in
areas with a mosaic of different plant communities and seral stages
[4,7,51]. In Minnesota bobcats preferred areas of black spruce (Picea
mariana), northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), and balsam fir
(Abies balsamea) interspersed with quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides)
and lowland shrubs [4]. No significant seasonal shifts in habitat use
occurred. Rollings [35] found that in Minnesota, bobcat winter habitat
was primarily thick northern white-cedar or black spruce swamps. In New
England, bobcats were frequently found in northern white-cedar swamps
and black spruce thickets [12]. Bobcat habitat in Massachusetts was
characterized by cliff areas, black spruce plantations, and eastern
hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)-hardwood communities [30].

Common tree and shrub species of bobcat habitat in the Intermountain
West include manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), mountain-mahogany
(Cercocarpus spp.), pinyon (Pinus spp.), sagebrush, and juniper
(Juniperus spp.) [37]. In the Frank-Church River of No Return
Wilderness, Idaho, bobcats selected Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga
menziesii)/mountain-mahogany (Cercoparus spp.) communities, but avoided
Douglas-fir/wheatgrass communities. The latter communities lacked rocky
terrain and mountain-mahogany cover for bobcats [49]. Bobcats in
another Idaho study were found in areas dominated by big sagebrush
(Artemisia tridentata) with nearby caves and sagebrush-Utah juniper (J.
osteosperma) areas near volcanic outcroppings. Most of the preference
for these habitats was accounted for by prey density and cover for
hunting and resting [47]. In Fresno County, California, bobcats were
most common from 2,001 to 4,003 feet (610-1,220 m) elevation, with the
preferred cover types in the eastern portion of the county including
woodland-grass, pine (Pinus spp.)-chaparral, and hardwood woodland [7].
  • 1. Allen, A. W. 1987. The relationship between habitat and furbearers. In: Novak, Milan; Baker, J. A.; Obbard, M. E.; Malloch, Bruce, eds. Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America. Ottawa, ON: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: 164-179. [24997]
  • 12. DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko. 1986. New England wildlife: habitat, natural history, and distribution. Gen. Tech. Rep. NE-108. Broomall, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northeastern Forest Experiment Station. 491 p. [21386]
  • 30. McCord, Chet M. 1974. Selection of winter habitat by bobcats (Lynx rufus on the Quabbin Reservation, Massachusetts. Journal of Mammalogy. 55(2): 428-437. [25138]
  • 35. Rollings, Clair T. 1945. Habits, foods and parasites of the bobcat in Minnesota. Journal of Wildlife Management. 9(2): 131-145. [24986]
  • 37. Spowart, Richard A.; Samson, Fred B. 1986. Carnivores. In: Cooperrider, Allan Y.; Boyd, Raymond J.; Stuart, Hanson R., eds. Inventory and monitoring of wildlife habitat. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Service Center: 475-496. [13526]
  • 4. Berg, William E. 1981. Ecology of bobcats in northern Minnesota. In: Blum, L. G.; Escherich, P. C., eds. Bobcat research conference: Proceedings; 1979 October 16-18; Front Royal, VA. NWF Science and Technical Series No. 6. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 55-61. [24983]
  • 47. Zezulak, David S.; Schwab, Robert G. 1981. A comparison of density, home range and habitat utilization of bobcat populations at Lava Beds and Joshua Tree National Monuments, California. In: Blum, L. G.; Escherich, P. C., eds. Bobcat research conference: Proceedings; 1979 October 16-18; Front Royal, VA. NWF Science and Technical Series No. 6. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 74-79. [24984]
  • 49. Koehler, Gary M.; Hornocker, Maurice G. 1989. Influences of seasons on bobcats in Idaho. Journal of Wildlife Management. 53(1): 197-202. [13470]
  • 51. Rolley, Robert E. 1987. Bobcat. In: Novak, M.; Baker, J. A.; Obbard, M. E.; Malloch, B., eds. Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America. Ottawa: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: 670-681. [25144]
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):

More info for the term: cover

Bobcats probably occur in most SRM (rangeland) cover types.

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the term: cover

Bobcats probably occur in most SAF cover types.

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

Bobcats probably occur in most Kuchler plant associations.

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak-pine
FRES15 Oak-hickory
FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress
FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood
FRES18 Maple-beech-birch
FRES19 Aspen-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir-spruce
FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES27 Redwood
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES31 Shinnery
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands
FRES41 Wet grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
FRES44 Alpine

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Home range generally is less than 100 sq km, often much less; male range is larger than female range (e.g., Lovallo and Anderson 1996). Commonly covers 3-11 km on a hunt (Handley 1991).

Home ranges in Louisiana about 5 square kilometers for males and 1 square kilometer for females (Hall and Newsom 1978). In Idaho, home ranges averaged 42 square kilometers for males and 19 square kilometers for females (Bailey 1974).

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Trophic Strategy

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.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles

Primary Diet: carnivore (Eats terrestrial vertebrates)

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Comments: Prefers small mammals, especially lagomorphs. Occasionally birds, other vertebrates, and carrion.

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Food Habits

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 rodentia, leporidae, small artiodactyla, large ground aves, and sometimes reptilia. They occasionally eat small domesticated animals and galliformes.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; reptiles

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Food Habits

Bobcats are opportunistic and will attempt to take almost any prey
available, including insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and
mammals. Mammalian prey, however, is often the most common prey in the
bobcat diet. Bobcats most frequently kill animals weighing 1.5 to 12
pounds (700 g-5.5 kg) [7].

Cottontail rabbits appear to be the principal prey of bobcats throughout
bobcat's range [6,7,38]. Primary exceptions occur from Minnesota to New
England, where white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and snowshoe
hare (Lepus americanus) increase in importance [6].

Bobcats in the Southeast rely heavily on two species, eastern
cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) and cotton rats, for food throughout
the year [6]. Cotton rats may be more important than eastern
cottontails from Florida to Louisiana. In the interior highlands of
Arkansas, eastern fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) and eastern gray
squirrels (S. carolinensis) are important foods. In the mountains of
eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, the woodland vole
(Microtus pinetorum) and various species of birds are important bobcat
prey [6]. In the West rodents, especially woodrats (Neotoma spp.), are
often eaten [6,7].
  • 38. Trevor, John T.; Seabloom, Robert W.; Allen, Stephen H. 1989. Food habits in relation to sex and age of bobcats from southwestern North Dakota. Prairie Naturalist. 21(3): 163-168. [19877]
  • 6. Boyle, Katherine A. 1987. Habitat suitability index models: bobcat. Biol. Rep. 82 (10.147). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 16 p. [11712]
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]

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Associations

Bobcats are important predators of many species of mammals and birds.

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Bobcat kittens are preyed upon by foxes, coyotes, and large owls. Humans are the only real threat to adult bobcats.

Known Predators:

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Ecosystem Roles

Bobcats are important predators of many species of mammalia and aves.

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Predation

Bobcat kittens are preyed upon by vulpes vulpes, canis latrans, and large strigidae. Humans are the only real threat to adult bobcats.

Known Predators:

  • red foxes (Vulpes_vulpes)
  • coyotes (Canis_latrans)
  • large owls (Strigiformes)

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Predators

Bobcats are not commonly preyed upon. Kittens may be taken by foxes
(Vulpes spp. and Urocyon spp.), owls (Strigidae), mountain lions (Felis
concolor), coyotes (Canis latrans), and adult male bobcats. Bobcats may
also be killed or injured by prey animals. Bobcats are hunted and
trapped by humans [7].
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]

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Known prey organisms

  • D. I. Rasmussen, Biotic communities of Kaibab Plateau, Arizona, Ecol. Monogr. 11(3):228-275, from p. 261 (1941).
  • D. L. Pattie and N. A. M. Verbeek, Alpine birds of the Beartooth Mountains, Condor 68:167-176 (1966); Alpine mammals of the Beartooth Mountains, Northwest Sci. 41(3):110-117 (1967).
  • L. D. Harris and G. B. Bowman, Vertebrate predator subsystem. In: Grasslands, Systems Analysis and Man, A. I. Breymeyer and G. M. Van Dyne, Eds. (International Biological Programme Series, no. 19, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, England, 1980), pp. 591-
  • Myers, P., R. Espinosa, C. S. Parr, T. Jones, G. S. Hammond, and T. A. Dewey. 2006. The Animal Diversity Web (online). Accessed February 16, 2011 at http://animaldiversity.org. http://www.animaldiversity.org
  • P. G. Howes, The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World: A Brief Biology of the Giant Cactus Forest of Our American Southwest (Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown, Boston; 1954), from pp. 222-239, from p. 227.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: No exact figures but many states report "many" EOs.

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

Comments: No exact figures; many individuals per state.

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General Ecology

Recorded population densities: 4-5 per 100 sq km in California, Idaho, and Minnesota; about 25/100 sq km in Arizona; 115-153/100 sq km in California; 500/100 sq km in Florida (Kitchener 1991, Jones and Smith 1979, Jackson 1961). Low natural mortality rate in adults. Solitary except when breeding. Populations may be limited by coyote predation in the western U.S. (see Caire et al. 1989).

In Mississippi, home ranges of deceased male and female resident bobcats were filled by transients or neighboring residents of the same sex; replacement bobcats used similar home ranges (and in some cases core areas) as the residents they replaced (Benson et al. 2004).

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Habitat-related Fire Effects

More info for the terms: cover, fire exclusion

Fire may improve the foraging habitat and prey base of bobcats. Fires
that create a mosaic of burned and unburned areas including some open
areas and some cover are probably most beneficial to bobcats. Fires
that reduce vegetation height and create open areas probably increase
hunting efficiency. Surface fires often open substrates for quieter
stalking and easier capture of prey than can occur in closed forests
[26]. Annual winter burning on a northern bobwhite (Colinus
virginianus) plantation may have improved stalking conditions for
bobcats which resulted in an increase in the local bobcat population
[31].

In California bobcats feed in recent (1-year-old) chaparral burns and
young (2- to 3-year-old) chaparral [28]. Longhurst [28] observed that
at the Hopland Field Station in California, populations of bobcats
increased in young to intermediate aged chaparral interspersed with
grassland. Bobcat populations showed a downward trend in both mature
chaparral (10 years old or more) and extensive grasslands.

Periodic fire helps to maintain habitat for many bobcat prey. Several
studies indicate that many small mammal populations increase rapidly
subsequent to fire in response to increased food availability
[20,21,26].

Cotton rats often leave burned areas immediately after fire, but they
return to burned areas to forage on green vegetation as the season
progresses. Cotton rats experience greater weight gains in burned than
unburned areas. Komarek [50] reported effects of fire exclusion on
cotton rats and other grassland rodents in pine woods which had
previously been burned annually. After 4 years the cotton rat
population had decreased sharply. Fire at 3-year intervals would
provide optimum habitat for cotton rats as long as adequate amounts of
unburned areas were available as escape cover. Cottontail rabbit
responses to fire are apparently similar to those of the cotton rat
[21]. Fire often improves hare and rabbit forage quality and quantity
for two or more growing seasons [20,26]. Hill [20] concluded that
burning in pine plantations in the Southeast at intervals longer than 2
years would be less beneficial to rabbits and hares than annual burns,
but any fire is better for these species than fire exclusion.
  • 20. Hill, Edward P. 1981. Prescribed fire and rabbits in southern forests. In: Wood, Gene W., ed. Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6-8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute: 103-108. [14816]
  • 21. Hon, Tip. 1981. Effects of prescribed fire on furbearers in the South. In: Wood, Gene W., ed. Prescribed fire and wildlife in southern forests: Proceedings of a symposium; 1981 April 6-8; Myrtle Beach, SC. Georgetown, SC: Clemson University, Belle W. Baruch Forest Science Institute: 121-128. [14818]
  • 26. Landers, J. Larry. 1987. Prescribed burning for managing wildlife in southeastern pine forests. In: Dickson, James G.; Maughan, O. Eugene, eds. Managing southern forests for wildlife and fish: a proceedings; [Date of conference unknown]
  • 28. Longhurst, William M. 1978. Responses of bird and mammal populations to fire in chaparral. California Agriculture. 32(10): 9-12. [7639]
  • 31. Miller, S. Douglas; Speake, Dan W. 1978. Prey utilization by bobcats on quail plantations in southern Alabama. Proceedings, Annual Conference of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. 32: 100-111. [25137]
  • 50. Komarek, E. V. 1939. A progress report on southeastern mammal studies. Journal of Mammalogy. 20: 292-299. [24987]

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Timing of Major Life History Events

More info for the terms: crepuscular, litter

Breeding season - Bobcats commonly breed in February and March.
However, variations in the breeding season are influenced by latitude,
longitude, altitude, climate, photoperiod, and perhaps prey
availability. Bobcats breed from February through July in Alabama,
peaking in March and April [7]. In Yellowstone National Park the peak
of the breeding season is from January through early March [9]. In the
Sierra Nevada bobcats breed from January through June, with breeding
peaking from February through May [41]. One male generally mates with
several females [9].

Age at first reproduction - Female bobcats are capable of breeding at 1
year of age. Males are sexually mature at 2 years of age [7,11]. Both
sexes remain reproductively active throughout life [11].

Gestation/litter size - Gestation is about 62 days [6,7]. In Utah a
majority of young are born in April or May [47], and in May and June in
Wyoming [11]. Usually two to three kittens are produced per litter,
although up to five kittens have been reported [9]. Generally, only one
litter is produced per year [41]. The kittens are raised solely by
their mother [9].

Development of young - Bobcats are born with their eyes closed. Their
eyes open between 3 and 11 days after birth. Bobcats are weaned at 7 to
8 weeks of age, but remain with their mother until they disperse [7].

Dispersal of juveniles - Juvenile bobcats generally disperse during
their first fall. In Michigan bobcat litters may not disperse until
their first spring [7].

Activities - Bobcats are generally crepuscular. Zezulak [46] found that
bobcat activity levels peaked at dawn and dusk in California. In
another California study, bobcat activity levels differed seasonally.
Bobcats were generally crepuscular during the winter, and more nocturnal
during the spring [48].

Life span - In the wild, most bobcats live 2 to 5 years; some
individuals live 15 years [9,11].
  • 11. Crowe, Douglas M. 1975. Aspects of ageing, growth, and reproduction of bobcats from Wyoming. Journal of Mammalogy. 56(1): 177-198. [25139]
  • 41. Verner, Jared; Boss, Allan S., tech. coords. 1980. California wildlife and their habitats: western Sierra Nevada. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-37. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station. 439 p. [10237]
  • 46. Zezulak, D. S. 1981. Northeastern California bobcat study. Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-54-R-12; Job IV-3. Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Game. 19 p. [25143]
  • 47. Zezulak, David S.; Schwab, Robert G. 1981. A comparison of density, home range and habitat utilization of bobcat populations at Lava Beds and Joshua Tree National Monuments, California. In: Blum, L. G.; Escherich, P. C., eds. Bobcat research conference: Proceedings; 1979 October 16-18; Front Royal, VA. NWF Science and Technical Series No. 6. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 74-79. [24984]
  • 48. Zezulak, D. S.; Schwab, R. G. 1980. Bobcat biology in a Mojave Desert community. Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Project W-54-R-12, Job IV-4. [Sacramento, CA]
  • 6. Boyle, Katherine A. 1987. Habitat suitability index models: bobcat. Biol. Rep. 82 (10.147). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 16 p. [11712]
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]
  • 9. Clark, Tim W.; Harvey, Ann H.; Dorn, Robert D.; [and others]

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

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.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Bobcats mark their territories with scent to warn other bobcats to stay out. They make various yowling sounds to communicate with one another during the breeding season. Like all felidae, bobcats have excellent vision and hearing and a well-developed sense of smell.

Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Cyclicity

Comments: Mainly nocturnal/crepuscular, sometimes diurnal in winter.

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Life Expectancy

Bobcats live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they may live up to 32 years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
32 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
32.3 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
15.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
32.3 years.

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
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Lifespan/Longevity

Bobcats live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they may live up to 32 years.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
12 (high) years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
32 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
32.3 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
15.0 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
32.3 years.

  • Kurta, A. 1995. Mammals of the Great Lakes Region. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 32.3 years (captivity) Observations: One specimen lived 32.3 years in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

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.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

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.

Breeding interval: Bobcats breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Bobcats mate in early spring.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 6.

Range gestation period: 50 to 70 days.

Range weaning age: 60 to 70 days.

Average time to independence: 8 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 265 g.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
730 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
365 days.

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.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning

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Breeds mid-winter through spring, or possibly at any time of year in some areas. Litter of 1-7 (usually 2-3) is born after 50-70 day gestation. In the south, reportedly may produce a second litter in early August. Both parents feed young while kits are in den. Young are weaned at about 2 months, stay with mother until early fall. First breeds usually at 1-2 years.

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The mating system of bobcats is similar to that of felis silvestris. Males and females are only together for the brief time required for courtship and mating, and both males and females may have more than one mate.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Bobcats usually mate in the early spring, although the timing is variable. After a pregnancy 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 leave their mother during the winter, when they are about 8 months old.

Breeding interval: Bobcats breed once yearly.

Breeding season: Bobcats mate in early spring.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 6.

Range gestation period: 50 to 70 days.

Range weaning age: 60 to 70 days.

Average time to independence: 8 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 265 g.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
730 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
365 days.

All female eutheria 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.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Lynx rufus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lynx rufus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 15
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

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.

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Kelly, M., Caso, A. & Lopez Gonzalez, C.

Reviewer/s
Nowell, K., Breitenmoser-Wursten, C., Breitenmoser, U. (Cat Red List Authority) & Schipper, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern because the bobcat is an abundant and wide-ranging species which does not meet any of the criteria for inclusion on the Red List.

History
  • 2002
    Least Concern
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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Extensive range in much of North America; many occurrences; overall population probably is stable, with local increases and declines; locally threatened by excessive harvest and habitat loss.

Other Considerations: Some populations may undergo cyclic population fluctuations that result in high population numbers about once in ten years (Jackson 1961), though this is not thought to be common (Earle 1993, pers. commun.).

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Bobcats are listed in CITES Appendix II.

One type of bobcat, 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.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Information on state- and province-level protection status of animals in the
United States and Canada is available at NatureServe, although recent changes
in status may not be included.

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U.S. Federal Legal Status

Lynx rufus escuinapae is listed as Endangered [39].
  • 39. U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 2013. Endangered Species Program, [Online]

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Population

Population
In the early 1980s, state wildlife authorities estimated the total US bobcat population at 725,000 to 1 million (Nowell and Jackson 1996). There have been no subsequent national population estimates, but bobcats are considered to be increasing by the national governments of both the US and Canada (Govt of US 2007). In a few midwestern US states bobcats have a limited distribution. The population in Mexico is not well known; it appears to be very rare in some areas in central Mexico (A. Caso pers. comm. 2007).

Population Trend
Stable
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Net trend is probably stable at present, though some areas are experiencing declines and others, increases. Populations declined in the 1900s in Oklahoma (1971-1981; Caire et al. 1989), in the Midwest (e.g, Hoffmesiter 1989), and along the central Atlantic coast (McCord and Cardoza 1982). In contrast, Iowa populations increased between 1983 and 1993 (Howell 1993, pers. comm.), populations in British Columbia are thought to be stable to increasing, populations in Tennessee are believed to be increasing (Hatcher 1993, pers. comm.), range and abundance of bobcats in Michigan are probably increasing (Earle 1993, pers. comm.), and Virginia populations were stable or increasing in the 1980s (Handley 1991).

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Threats

Major Threats
World demand for bobcat fur rose gradually in the late 1960's and early 1970's and jumped in the mid-1970's after CITES entered into force, when the pelts of cats listed on Appendix I became legally unobtainable for the commercial fur trade (Nowell and Jackson 1996). The bobcat is now the leading felid in the skin trade, with most exports coming from the US. From 1990-1999, annual exports averaged 13,494; in 2000-2006 the average climbed to 29,772, with an all-time high of 51,419 skins exported in 2006 (UNEP-WCMC 2008).

The US government has found that trade is not detrimental to bobcat survival and is well-managed by state authorities. They have petitioned CITES numerous times, most recently in 2007, to remove the bobcat from the CITES Appendices, arguing that the bobcat does not meet the biological criteria for CITES listing and that their research indicates that importing governments should be able to reliably distinguish bobcat skins from other species to prevent illegal trade (Govt of US 2007). However, the proposal was rejected by majority vote of the Parties to CITES (Nowell et al. 2007).

Habitat loss is viewed as the primary threat to bobcats in all three range countries. There is concern in the northeastern US about interspecific competition with expanding coyote populations (Moruzzi et al. 2002, Litvaitis and Harrison 1989, Litvaitis et al. 2006). However, in Florida, where coyotes have also increased, Thornton et al. (2004) found that bobcats and coyotes favoured different prey species, with coyotes taking larger ungulates and bobcats rodents and smaller mammals.

In localized areas bobcats take domestic livestock and are persecuted as pests (Sunquist and Sunquist 2002).
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Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses

Comments: Major threats are local excessive harvest by humans (especially in the north where the pelt is more valuable for fur) and conversion of habitat to commercial, residential, or agricultural uses (McCord and Cardoza 1982). Bobcats can tolerate some habitat disturbance but usually are absent from areas of intensive farming or with dense human populations. In Indiana, poorly regulated shooting and trapping are threats to the bobcat (Mumford and Whitaker 1982). Another possible threat is predation from increasing coyote populations (Caire et al. 1989); bobcat numbers are generally low in areas where coyote numbers are high, even if suitable habitat is present (Toweill 1979). In North Dakota, the rapidly expanding coyote population is considered a threat to bobcats (Kreil 1993, pers. commun.).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Included on CITES Appendix II. The Mexican subspecies L. rufus escuinapae was listed on CITES Appendix I until 1992, when it was downlisted to Appendix II on the grounds that it is not a valid taxa (Govt of US 2007). Bobcats are legally harvested for the fur trade in 38 US states, and in seven Canadian provinces. In Mexico, the bobcat is legally hunted in small numbers as a trophy animal (Govt of US 2007). There appears to be little illegal international trade (Govt of US 2007), although within the US Millions and Swanson (2006) used molecular forensics techniques to determine that skins reported as originating from an area wiith a higher bag limit were probably illegally taken from an area with a lower limit.
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Biological Research Needs: Determine mortality rates of juveniles and the importance of dispersal in maintaining stable populations. Compare demographics of exploited vs. unexploited populations in different regions. Investigate population restoration methods. Conduct snow tracking studies to determine behaviour patterns (McCord and Cardoza 1982). Study relationship between bobcats and coyotes.

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Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many presumably occur in national parks, national forests, and state and federal wilderness areas.

Needs: In areas throughout the range, maintain or reassemble large blocks of relatively wild habitat (e.g., low road density) with sufficient corridors to allow population exchange among local populations.

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Use of Fire in Population Management

Prescribed burning that favors small mammals by creating ecotones and
different age classes of vegetation would increase the prey base for
bobcats and make hunting easier for them by opening up the habitat [33].
  • 33. Quinn, Ronald D. 1990. Habitat preferences and distribution of mammals in California chaparral. Res. Pap. PSW-202. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station. 11 p. [15761]

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Management Considerations

More info for the term: cover

To enhance and maintain habitat quality for bobcats, managers should
maintain a mosaic of cover types with early to mid-successional stages,
maintain cover adjacent to preferred physical features (e.g., cliffs),
and maintain vegetation in riparian areas and ridgelines to enhance
dispersal [1].

Habitat management favoring bobcats is possible in areas managed for
timber production. Generally, small mammal populations peak 1 to 3
years after clearcutting and planting and decrease sharply thereafter.
Clearcutting "small" blocks of timber interspersed with forested areas
provides good habitat for small mammals and therefore good foraging
habitat for bobcats. Delaying the canopy closure of newly planted
stands promotes small mammal abundance for longer periods. Canopy
closure can be delayed in several ways, including increased spacing (to
approximately 10 feet [3 m]) of original planting, and early and
extensive thinning [6].

Response to human activities - Bobcats appear capable of dealing with
moderate human influence on the environment. Their populations are
stable in the United States, except in areas of intensive farming and
dense human populations, such as in the Midwest and along the central
Atlantic coast in Delaware and New Jersey. In Canada, bobcats are
expanding their range into many areas that previously supported only
lynx [7].

Bobcats often use recently logged areas and farms, because logging and
farming practices often provide food and cover for prey species.
Agricultural land that is so extensive as to eliminate rocky ledges,
swamps, and forest tracts is not used by bobcats. Bobcats show little
or no aversion to human dwellings or equipment; in fact, one bobcat
frequently rested within 200 feet (61 m) of an occupied dwelling.
Resting bobcats often respond to motor vehicles and logging activities
by moving a short distance and resuming their rest [7].

Depredations - Bobcats occasionally prey upon livestock [7]. Gashwiler
and others [16] allege that bobcats often hunt around lambing grounds,
but domestic sheep remains were found in only 1 of 53 bobcat stomachs.
Only 1 of 222 ewe losses to predators in 1973 through 1975 in Idaho was
attributed to a bobcat [7].
  • 1. Allen, A. W. 1987. The relationship between habitat and furbearers. In: Novak, Milan; Baker, J. A.; Obbard, M. E.; Malloch, Bruce, eds. Wild furbearer management and conservation in North America. Ottawa, ON: Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources: 164-179. [24997]
  • 16. Gashwiler, Jay S.; Robinette, W. Leslie; Morris, Owen W. 1960. Foods of bobcats in Utah and eastern Nevada. Journal of Wildlife Management. 24(2): 226-229. [25136]
  • 6. Boyle, Katherine A. 1987. Habitat suitability index models: bobcat. Biol. Rep. 82 (10.147). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 16 p. [11712]
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

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.

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In the past bobcats were extensively hunted and trapped for their valuable pelts.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material

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Economic Uses

Comments: Harvest often comprises the major source of mortality in exploited populations (Litvaitus et al. 1987). Hair brittle and pelt formerly of limited economic value until recent demand for spotted cat furs (Caire et al. 1989). In Virginia, pelt value was about $38 in 1986 (Handley 1991). Infrequently and locally a problem due to predation on small livestock.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Bobcats occasionally eat small domesticated animals, which has resulted in attempts to get rid of them them in some areas. In the southeastern United States, bobcats are becoming increasingly used to cities and towns, though their shyness makes it unlikely that they will be seen.

On rare occasions humans are attacked by bobcats.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

In the past bobcats were extensively hunted and trapped for their valuable pelts.

Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material

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Wikipedia

Bobcat

For other uses, see Bobcat (disambiguation).

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae, appearing during the Irvingtonian stage of around 1.8 million years ago (AEO).[3] With 12 recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including most of the continental United States. The bobcat is an adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, as well as semidesert, urban edge, forest edges, and swampland environments. It remains in some of its original range, but local populations are vulnerable to extirpation by coyotes and domestic animals. The bobcat is vital for controlling pest populations. 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 on average than the Canada lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but is about twice as large as the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby tail, from which it derives its name.

Though the bobcat prefers rabbits and hares, it will hunt anything from insects, chickens, and small rodents to deer. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season, and abundance. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary, although with some overlap in home ranges. It uses several methods to mark its territorial boundaries, including claw marks and deposits of urine or feces. The bobcat breeds from winter into spring and has a gestation period of about two months.

Although bobcats have been hunted extensively by humans, both for sport and fur, their population has proven resilient though declining in some areas. The elusive predator features in Native American mythology and the folklore of European settlers.

Taxonomy[edit]

Comparative illustration of bobcat (top) and Canada lynx (bottom) heads (1906)

There had been debate over whether to classify this species as Lynx rufus or Felis rufus as part of a wider issue regarding whether the four species of Lynx should be given their own genus, or be placed as a subgenus of Felis.[4][5] The Lynx genus is now accepted, and the bobcat is listed as Lynx rufus in modern taxonomic sources.

Johnson et al. reported Lynx shared a clade with the puma, leopard cat (Prionailurus), and domestic cat (Felis) lineages, dated to 7.15 million years ago (mya); Lynx diverged first, approximately 3.24 million years ago.[6]

The bobcat is believed to have evolved from the Eurasian lynx, which crossed into North America by way of the Bering Land Bridge during the Pleistocene, with progenitors arriving as early as 2.6 million years ago.[5] The first wave moved into the southern portion of North America, which was soon cut off from the north by glaciers. This population evolved into modern bobcats around 20,000 years ago. A second population arrived from Asia and settled in the north, developing into the modern Canada lynx.[4] Hybridization between the bobcat and the Canada lynx may sometimes occur (see felid hybrid).[7]

Subspecies[edit]

Thirteen bobcat subspecies are currently recognized:

The subspecies division has been challenged, given a lack of clear geographic breaks in their ranges and the minor differences between subspecies.[9]

Physical characteristics[edit]

Bobcat after attacking backyard chicken, North Bend, Washington
A bobcat finds water in Tucson, AZ
Bobcat in the front yard of a residence in Southern California

The bobcat resembles other species of the Lynx genus, but is on average the smallest of the four. 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 underparts. 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.[10] A few melanistic bobcats have been sighted and captured in Florida. They appear black, but may still exhibit a spot pattern.[11]

The face appears wide due to ruffs of extended hair beneath the ears. Bobcat 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.[12] The pupils are round, black circles and will widen during nocturnal activity to maximize light reception.[13] 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.[14]

The adult bobcat is 47.5 to 125 cm (18.7 to 49.2 in) long from the head to the base of the tail, averaging 82.7 cm (32.6 in); the stubby tail adds 9 to 20 cm (3.5 to 7.9 in) [12] and its "bobbed" appearance gives the species its name.[15][16][17][18] An adult stands about 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in) at the shoulders.[10][19] Adult males can range in weight from 6.4 to 18.3 kg (14 to 40 lb), with an average of 9.6 kg (21 lb); females at 4 to 15.3 kg (8.8 to 33.7 lb), with an average of 6.8 kg (15 lb).[20][21] The largest bobcat accurately measured on record weighed 22.2 kg (49 lb), although unverified reports have them reaching 27 kg (60 lb).[22] Furthermore, a June 20, 2012 report of a New Hampshire roadkill specimen listed the animal's weight at 27 kg (60 lb).[23] The largest-bodied bobcats are from eastern Canada and northern New England of the subspecies (L. r. gigas), while the smallest are from the southeastern subspecies (L. r. floridanus), particularly those in the southern Appalachians.[24] 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).[14]

The cat is larger in its northern range and in open habitats.[25] A morphological size comparison study in the eastern United States found a divergence in the location of the largest male and female specimens, suggesting differing selection constraints for the sexes.[26]

Behavior[edit]

The bobcat is crepuscular. It 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 mi (3.2 to 11.3 km) along its habitual route.[14] 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.[13]

Social structure and home range[edit]

A bobcat on the Calero Creek Trail, in San Jose, California

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.[27]

The sizes of bobcats' home ranges vary significantly; a World Conservation Union (IUCN) summary of research suggests ranges from 0.02 to 126 sq mi (0.052 to 326.339 km2).[25] One study in Kansas found resident males to have ranges of roughly 8 sq mi (21 km2), and females less than half that area. Transient bobcats were found to have both larger (roughly 22 sq mi (57 km2)) and less well-defined home ranges. Kittens had the smallest range at about 3 sq mi (7.8 km2).[28] Research has shown dispersal from the natal range is most pronounced with males.[29]

Reports on seasonal variation in range size have been equivocal. One study found a large variation in male range sizes, from 16 sq mi (41 km2) in summer up to 40 sq mi (100 km2) in winter.[27] Another found that female bobcats, especially those which were reproductively active, expanded their home range in winter, but that males merely shifted their range without expanding it, which was consistent with numerous earlier studies.[30] Other research in various American states has shown little or no seasonal variation.[28][31][32]

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 others' ranges.[30] 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.

In line with widely differing estimates of home range size, population density figures are divergent, from one to 38 bobcats per 10 sq mi (26 km2) in one survey.[25] The average is estimated at one bobcat per 5 square miles (13 km2).[27] A link has been observed between population density and sex ratio. One study noted a dense, unhunted population in California had a sex ratio of 2.1 males per female. When the density decreased, the sex ratio skewed to 0.86 males per female. Another study observed a similar ratio, and suggested the males may be better able to cope with the increased competition, and this would help limit reproduction until various factors lowered the density.[33]

Hunting and diet[edit]

Rabbits and hares, along with rodents, are taken most often by the cat

The bobcat is able to survive 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 weighing about 1.5 to 12.5 lb (0.68 to 5.67 kg). Its main prey varies by region. In the eastern United States, it is the eastern cottontail species, and in the north it is the snowshoe hare. When these prey species exist together, as in New England, they are the primary food sources of the bobcat. In the far south, the rabbits and hare are sometimes replaced by cotton rats as the primary food source. The bobcat is an opportunistic predator that, unlike the more specialized Canadian lynx, will readily vary its prey selection.[25] Diet diversification positively correlates to a decline in numbers of the bobcat's principal prey; the abundance of its main prey species is the main determinant of overall diet.[34]

The bobcat hunts animals of different sizes, and will adjust its hunting techniques accordingly. With small animals, such as rodents (including squirrels), birds, fish, and insects, it will hunt in areas known to be abundant in 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 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 10.7 m) before rushing in to attack. Less commonly, it will feed on larger animals, such as young ungulates and other carnivores such as fishers, foxes, minks, skunks, small dogs and domesticated cats.[27][35][36] Bobcats are considered the major predatory threat to the endangered whooping crane.[37] Bobcats are also occasional hunters of livestock and poultry. While larger species, such as cattle and horses, are not known to be attacked, bobcats do present a threat to smaller ruminants, such as sheep and goats. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, bobcats killed 11,100 sheep in 2004, comprising 4.9% of all sheep predator deaths.[38] However, some amount of bobcat predation may be misidentified, as bobcats have been known to scavenge on the remains of livestock kills by other animals.[39]

It has been known to kill deer, especially in winter when smaller prey is scarce, or when deer populations become more abundant. One study in the Everglades showed a large majority of kills (33 of 39) were fawns, but prey up to eight times the bobcat's weight could be successfully taken.[40] 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 snow or leaves, often returning to it several times to feed.[27]

The bobcat prey base overlaps with that of other midsized predators of a similar ecological niche. Research in Maine has shown little evidence of competitive relationships between the bobcat and coyote or red fox; separation distances and territory overlap appeared random among simultaneously monitored animals.[41] However, other studies have found bobcat populations may decrease in areas with high coyote populations, with the more social inclination of the canid giving them a possible competitive advantage.[42] With the Canadian lynx, however, the interspecific relationship affects distribution patterns; competitive exclusion by the bobcat is likely to have prevented any further southward expansion of the range of its felid relative.[5]

Reproduction and life cycle[edit]

Bobcat kittens in North Texas in June, about 2–4 months old

Bobcats typically live to six or eight years of age, with a few reaching beyond ten. The longest they have been known to live is 16 years in the wild and 32 years in captivity.[33]

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, but most mating takes place during February and March. 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,[27] and males will generally mate with several females.[43] During courtship, the otherwise silent bobcat may let out loud screams, hisses, or other sounds.[44] Research in Texas has suggested establishing a home range is necessary for breeding; studied animals with no set range had no identified offspring.[29] The female has an estrous cycle of 44 days, with the estrus lasting five to ten days. Bobcats remain reproductively active throughout their lives.[13][43]

The female raises the young alone. One to six, but usually two to four, 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 ninth or tenth day. They start exploring their surroundings at four weeks and are weaned at about two months. Within three to five months, they begin to travel with their mother.[44] They will be hunting by themselves by fall of their first year, and usually disperse shortly thereafter.[27] In Michigan, however, they have been observed staying with their mother as late as the next spring.[43]

Tracks[edit]

Bobcat tracks in mud, note the hind print (top) partially covering the fore print (center)

Bobcat tracks show four toes without claw marks, due to their retractable claws. The tracks can range in size from 1 to 3 in (2.5 to 7.6 cm); the average is about 1.8 inches.[45] When walking or trotting, the tracks are spaced roughly 8 to 18 in (20 to 46 cm) apart. The bobcat can make great strides when running, often from 4 to 8 ft (1.2 to 2.4 m).[46]

Like all cats, the bobcat 'directly registers', meaning its hind prints usually fall exactly on top of its fore prints. Bobcat tracks can be generally distinguished from feral or house cat tracks by their larger size: about 2.0 in2 (13 cm²) versus 1.5 in2 (10 cm²).[47]

Ecology[edit]

Skull of a bobcat

The adult bobcat has few predators other than humans, although it may be killed in interspecific conflict. Cougars and gray wolves will kill adult bobcats, a behavior repeatedly observed in Yellowstone National Park.[48] Coyotes have killed adult bobcats and kittens.[49][50][51] There is at least one confirmed observation of a bobcat and an American black bear (Ursus americanus) fighting over a carcass.[52]

Kittens may be taken by several predators, including owls, eagles, and foxes, as well as other adult male bobcats; when prey populations are not abundant, fewer kittens are likely to reach adulthood. Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) have been reportedly observed preying on adult bobcats.[53]

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. One study of 15 bobcats showed yearly survival rates for both sexes averaged 0.62, in line with other research suggesting rates of 0.56 to 0.67.[54] Cannibalism has been reported; kittens may be taken when prey levels are low, but this is very rare and does not much influence the population.[33]

The bobcat may have external parasites, mostly ticks and fleas, and will often carry the parasites of its prey, especially those of rabbits and squirrels. Internal parasites (endoparasites) are especially common in bobcats.[55] One study found an average infection rate of 52% from Toxoplasma gondii, but with great regional variation.[56] One mite in particular, Lynxacarus morlani, has to date been found only on the bobcat. Parasites' and diseases' role in the mortality of the bobcat is still unclear, but they may account for greater mortality than starvation, accidents, and predation.[33]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Bobcat in urban surroundings. The species' range does not seem to be limited by human populations, as long as it can still find a suitable habitat.

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; its spotted coat serves as camouflage.[27] 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.[9]

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.[25] The animal may appear in back yards in "urban edge" environments, where human development intersects with natural habitats.[57] If chased by a dog, it will usually climb up a tree.[27]

The historical range of the bobcat was from southern Canada, throughout the United States, and as far south as the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and it still persists across much of this area. Range maps typically show a pocket of territory in the US Midwest and parts of the Northeast, where it is no longer thought to exist, including southern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota and much of Missouri, mostly due to habitat changes from modern agricultural practices.[13][25][27] While thought to no longer exist in western New York and Pennsylvania, multiple confirmed sightings of bobcats (including dead specimens) have been recently reported in New York's Southern Tier and in central New York.[58] In addition, bobcats sightings have been confirmed in northern Indiana, and one was recently killed near Albion, Michigan.[59] In early March, 2010, a bobcat was sighted (and later captured by animal control authorities) in a parking garage in downtown Houston, TX.[60] In August and September, 2010, a number of sightings were reported in the Houston suburbs of Pearland and Friendswood.

Its population in Canada is limited due to both snow depth and the presence of the Canadian lynx. The bobcat does not tolerate deep snow, and will wait out heavy storms in sheltered areas;[61] it lacks the large, padded feet of the Canadian lynx and cannot support its weight on snow as efficiently. The bobcat is not entirely at a disadvantage where its range meets that of the larger felid: displacement of the Canadian lynx by the aggressive bobcat has been observed where they interact in Nova Scotia, while the clearing of coniferous forests for agriculture has led to a northward retreat of the Canadian lynx's range to the advantage of the bobcat.[25] In northern and central Mexico, the cat is found in dry scrubland and forests of pine and oak; its range ends at the tropical southern portion of the country.[25]

Conservation[edit]

The bobcat population has seen decline in the American Midwest, but is generally stable and healthy

It is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES),[62] which means it is not considered threatened with extinction, but hunting and trading must be closely monitored. The animal is regulated in all three of its range countries, and is found in a number of protected areas of the United States, its principal territory.[25] Estimates from the US Fish and Wildlife Service placed bobcat numbers between 700,000 and 1,500,000 in the US in 1988, with increased range and population density suggesting even greater numbers in subsequent years; for these reasons, the U.S. has petitioned CITES to remove the cat from Appendix II.[9] Populations in Canada and Mexico remain stable and healthy. The IUCN lists it as a species of "least concern", noting it is relatively widespread and abundant, but information from southern Mexico is poor.[2] The species is considered endangered in Ohio, Indiana, and New Jersey. It was removed from the threatened list of Illinois in 1999 and of Iowa in 2003. In Pennsylvania, limited hunting and trapping are once again allowed, after having been banned from 1970 to 1999. The bobcat also suffered population decline in New Jersey at the turn of the 19th century, mainly because of commercial and agricultural developments causing habitat fragmentation; by 1972, the bobcat was given full legal protection, and was listed as endangered in the state in 1991.[13] L. r. escuinipae, the subspecies found in Mexico, was for a time considered endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but was delisted in 2005.[63]

The bobcat has long been valued both for fur and sport; it has been hunted and trapped by humans, but has maintained a high population, even in the southern United States, where it is extensively hunted. Indirectly, kittens are most vulnerable to hunting given their dependence on an adult female for the first few months of life. In the 1970s and 1980s, an unprecedented rise in price for bobcat fur caused further interest in hunting, but by the early 1990s, prices had dropped significantly.[64] Regulated hunting still continues, with half of mortality of some populations being attributed to this cause. As a result, the rate of bobcat deaths is skewed in winter, when hunting season is generally open.[33]

Urbanization can result in the fragmentation of contiguous natural landscapes into patchy habitat within an urban area. Animals that live in these fragmented areas often have reduced movement between the habitat patches, which can lead to reduced gene flow and pathogen transmission between patches. Animals such as the bobcat are particularly sensitive to fragmentation because of their large home ranges.[65] A study in coastal Southern California has shown bobcat populations are affected by urbanization, creation of roads, and other developments. The populations may not be declining as much as predicted, but instead the connectivity of different populations is affected. This leads to a decrease in natural genetic diversity among bobcat populations.[66] For bobcats, preserving open space in sufficient quantities and quality is necessary for population viability. Educating local residents about the animals is critical, as well, for conservation in urban areas.[67]

In mythology[edit]

In Native American mythology, the bobcat is often twinned with the figure of the coyote in a theme of duality.[68] Lynx and coyote are associated with the fog and wind, respectively—two elements representing opposites in Amerindian folklore. This basic story, in many variations, is found in the native cultures of North America (with parallels in South America), but they diverge in the telling. One version, which appears in the Nez Perce folklore for instance, depicts lynx and coyote as opposed, antithetical beings.[69] However, another version depicts them with equality and identicality. Claude Lévi-Strauss argues the former concept, that of twins representing opposites, is an inherent theme in New World mythologies, but they are not equally balanced figures, representing an open-ended dualism rather than the symmetric duality of Old World cultures. The latter notion then, Lévi-Strauss suggests, is the result of regular contact between Europeans and native cultures. Additionally, the version found in the Nez Perce story is of much greater complexity, while the version of equality seems to have lost the tale's original meaning.[70]

In a Shawnee tale, the bobcat is outwitted by a rabbit, which gives rise to its spots. After trapping the rabbit in a tree, the bobcat is persuaded to build a fire, only to have the embers scattered on its fur, leaving it singed with dark brown spots.[71] The Mohave believed dreaming habitually of beings or objects would afford them their characteristics as supernatural powers. Dreaming of two deities, cougar and lynx, they thought, would grant them the superior hunting skills of other tribes.[72] European settlers to the Americas also admired the cat, both for its ferocity and its grace, and in the United States, it "rests prominently in the anthology of ... national folklore."[73]

See also[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Placed in genus FELIS by some authors. Jones et al. (1992), Wozencraft (in Wilson and Reeder 1993), and Lariviere and Walton (1997) included the bobcat in the genus LYNX. See Sikes and Kennedy (1992) for information on cranial variation in the eastern U.S.

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Common Names

bobcat
bay lynx

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There has been much debate concerning the taxonomic classification of
bobcats. Bobcats have been classified as both Lynx rufus (Schreber)
[17,53,54,55] and Felis rufus Schreber [52,56]. This write-up follows
Hall [17], using Lynx rufus as the scientific name for bobcat. Hall
recognizes 12 subspecies:

L. rufus baileyi Merriam
L. rufus californicus Mearns
L. rufus escuinapae J. A. Allen
L. rufus fasciatus Rafinesque
L. rufus floridanus Rafinesque
L. rufus gigas Bangs
L. rufus oaxacensis Goodwin
L. rufus pallescens Merriam
L. rufus peninsularis Thomas
L. rufus rufus
L. rufus superiorensis Peterson and Downing
L. rufus texensis Mearns

Bobcats hybridize with lynx (Lynx canadensis) [7].
  • 17. Hall, E. Raymond. 1981. The mammals of North America. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. New York: John Wiley and Sons. 1271 p. [14765]
  • 52. Van Gelden, Richard G. 1977. Mammalian hybrids and generic limits. American Museum Novitates. 2635: 1-25. [25332]
  • 53. Leyhausen, P. 1979. Cat behavior. New York: Garland STPM Press. 340 p. [25147]
  • 54. Werdelin, Lars. 1981. The evolution of lynxes. Annales Zoologici Fennici. 18: 37-71. [25333]
  • 55. Honacki, J. H.; Kinman, K. E.; Koeppi, J. W., eds. 1982. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference. Lawrence, KS: Association of Systematics Collections; Allen Press, Inc. [25146]
  • 56. Corbet, G. B. 1978. The mammals of the pole arctic region: a taxonomic review. London: British Museum of Natural History; Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 314 p. [25145]
  • 7. Chapman, Joseph A.; Feldhamer, George A., eds. 1982. Wild mammals of North America. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1147 p. [21085]

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