Home /

Animals / Felines / Mammals

/ Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Misfit Animals is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn More.

The bobcat (Lynx Rufus) is one of the most efficient predators in North America. This small feline is powerful and adaptable, often killing prey much larger than itself. While they look like domestic cats with short tails, bobcats are wild animals and need to be treated as such.

Bobcats are feline ambush predators that stalk the environments of North America. They are great and adaptable hunters and catch a variety of prey from small rodents to deer. 

Bobcats are spread all across the continent from western Canada to southern Mexico.

What bobcats look like, what they eat, whether they are dangerous, and many other questions will be answered in this article.

Facts

TypeMammal
Name of YoungKittens
Number of Subspecies2
Social BehaviorSolitary
DietCarnivore
Favorite FoodRabbits or Hares
Activity PatternCrepuscular (it varies)
DistributionFrom Western Canada to Southern Mexico
HabitatDiverse, from deserts and dry, rocky mountains to forest and swamps.
Conservation statusLeast concern
Lifespan5-13 years in the wild, over 20 in captivity

Physical Characteristics

Length19-50 inches
Height12-24 inches
Weight9-40 pounds
ColorsFrom grey to brown and red, rarely black or white
Coat TypeFur

3 Interesting Bobcat Facts

Bobcats are interesting animals with many unusual traits. This solitary feline is named after its characteristically short and stubby tail. They are crepuscular and prefer hunting during the twilight hours. They will seize any opportunity for an easy meal, including pets.

Bobcats are fascinating animals. Here are a couple of interesting facts about them:

  1. They get their name from their tail.
  2. They are crepuscular.
  3. They can attack pets.

1. Bobcats Get Their Names From Their Tails

Bobcats Get Their Names From Their Tails

Bobcats are named “bobcats” because of their short and stubby or “bobbed” tails. They share this trait with their close relative the lynxes. The short tail is a trait some people want in their cats which is why cat breeds like American bobtails were created.

2. Bobcats Are Crepuscular

Crepuscular animals are most active in low light conditions of the twilight hours, before sunrise and right after sunset. Bobcats are crepuscular and do most of their hunting and traveling during this time of day.

Bobcats don’t act exclusively as crepuscular animals. They are versatile and adapt to the activity of their prey. 

Depending on region and season they can have a more nocturnal or even diurnal activity pattern.

3. Bobcats Can Attack Pets

Bobcats Can Attack Pets

Bobcats are predators and will seize any opportunity to get an easy meal. They thrive close to human settlements and often venture into yards to steal pet food. 

If they run into a cat or a small dog, they will kill the pet. 

Even larger dogs can get killed by bobcats. If they feel threatened, bobcats defend themselves fiercely.

Bobcat Classification and Evolution

Bobcats are felines, part of the Lynx genus. They share many traits with other felines and their closest relatives are members of their own genus, lynxes. Bobcats evolved from the European lynx and became their own species. They are split into two subspecies: east and west of the great plains.

Bobcats are felines (cat-like animals) and belong to the Lynx genus. 

Here’s an overview of their taxonomy and classification:

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassMammalia
OrderCarnivora
SuborderFeliformia
FamilyFelidae
SubfamilyFelinae
GenusLynx
SpeciesLynx rufus

Bobcats and lynxes are closely related. Bobcats are technically lynxes as all members of the lynx genus are essentially lynxes. 

Bobcats are however the most different of their close relatives. They are the smallest species of the genus and their paws and tails are different.

Evolution of Bobcats

Evolution of Bobcats

The Lynx genus originated in Africa over four million years ago. They are descendants of an extinct species named Lynx issiodorensis or the Issoire lynx. 

The European lynx crossed the Bering land bridge about 2.6 million years ago and slowly evolved into the modern bobcat. Another European lynx population crossed over from Asia

200,000 years ago and evolved into the Canada lynx. 

Bobcats or their ancestors prevented the spread of the lynx further south.[1]

Types of Bobcats

There are only two officially recognized subspecies of bobcats. They are diverse depending on region but only Lynx rufus rufus and Lynx rufus fasciatus are considered official subspecies.

Bobcats have small differences in appearance and behavior depending on the region they live in. 

There are only two officially recognized subspecies of bobcats

  • Lynx rufus rufus:   The eastern bobcats are found east of the Great Plains.
  • Lynx rufus fasciatus: The western bobcats are found west of the Great Plains.

The differences between the two subspecies are minor, the main differences are in their genetics, thanks to having different ancestry. The two subspecies diverged as a result of the glacial periods. 

The region of the Great Plains turned into tundra and ice sheets, unfit for bobcat survival, and split their population in two. They only started coming into contact with one another after the glacial retreat.[2]

Bobcat Ears

Bobcat Anatomy and Appearance

Bobcats are medium-sized felines with characteristic short tails, ear tufts, and face ruffs which make them look bigger. They are the smallest member of the lynx genus and have smaller paws and ear tufts than their cousins.

Anatomy

Bobcats, like the other members of the Lynx genus, have distinct characteristics which make them stand out from other cats:

Short Tails

Bobcats and lynxes have the shortest tail of any wild felid species. Their stubby tail is a result of evolution, as they have fewer and shorter caudal vertebrae. Bobcats have on average a longer tail-to-body length ratio than lynxes.

Strong Back Legs

Bobcats have stronger and longer back legs for their bodies than other felines, like domestic cats. They use their strong legs to pounce long distances onto unsuspecting prey or jump up in the air to catch low-flying birds.

Appearance

Bobcat Appearance

Bobcats have a unique look. They look like big, wild domestic cats with short tails, long back legs, and clear markings like stripes and spots. 

Bobcat kittens are sometimes adopted by humans who confuse them with abandoned kittens.

Colors

Bobcats adapt their coat colors to their environment and season to help them camouflage better. In rocky areas, in deserts, and around snow they have different coats in shades of grey. Their coats get darker in forests, swamps, and greener regions, becoming brown or even reddish.[3]

Markings

Bobcat Markings

Markings such as stripes and spots help bobcats camouflage themselves better. They break up their outline and make them harder to see clearly. 

Bobcats have dark face markings, similar to a tabby cat. On their legs, they have characteristic black bars. 

They also have black stripes and a black tip on the top of the tail, but it’s completely white on the bottom. This makes their tails different from lynxes’ tails, which helps in telling them apart. 

Bobcat Distribution and Habitat

Bobcats are widely distributed across North America and are found in an impressive amount of habitats. They are versatile and managed to spread through almost most of the habitats in the US. They are by far the most successful feline in North America.

Distribution

Bobcats are found across North America. Their range stretches from the north in western Canada, all the way down to the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. 

Across their range, they have adapted to the environment with southern bobcats being generally smaller than northern ones.

Habitat

Bobcats are one of the most adaptable feline species in the world. Thanks to their versatility they spread throughout most of the habitats found on the continent. 

Their expansion in snowier habitats is limited though. They lack the large padded paws of lynxes and it’s harder for them to move through the snow.

Bobcats prefer living in forests but are not limited by them. They manage to thrive wherever there’s prey and can be found anywhere from deserts to the swamps of Florida. 

An important factor for bobcats’ choice of habitat is if they can find good spots for dens and places to hide.[4]

Bobcat Habitat

Bobcat Behavior

Bobcats are shy and elusive predators. They are crepuscular, meaning they are most active during the twilight hours. Bobcats avoid unnecessary contact with other animals and humans. They are ambush hunters, using the element of surprise to kill prey.

Bobcats Activity Pattern

Bobcats are usually crepuscular. This means they prefer being active before sunrise and after sunset. 

They take advantage of the lighting conditions around this time as it helps them remain unseen as much as possible.

Bobcats are versatile and they adapt to the conditions found in their environment. If the prey is more active at night they can switch to a more nocturnal focused activity pattern. When prey is more active during the day (like in the winter) they are active during the day.[5]

Related: When Are Bobcats Most Active?

Bobcat Movement

Bobcats can have sizable home ranges, so they frequently travel long distances. After leaving their mother, they travel until they find a range to call home. 

Males usually travel further than females, and bobcats in colder climates travel less than bobcats in warmer climates to conserve energy.[6]

Bobcat Hunting Behavior

Bobcat Hunting Behavior

Bobcats are ambush hunters. This means they sneak up on their prey or lie in wait, waiting for the prey to get close before pouncing on it to strike the final blow. 

They do chase the prey in case they don’t catch it instantly, but they don’t chase for long distances.

Bobcats also hunt for larger prey when they have to, especially in the winter. If they ever have to kill a deer or elk, bobcats will look for younglings or sick animals. These are easier to kill.

Bobcat Diet and Prey

Bobcats are carnivores, meaning they eat meat. They typically hunt small prey animals and adapt to whatever is available. While bobcats prefer hunting for small to medium-sized mammals, like hares and rabbits, they will take down large prey if necessary.

Bobcats are predators and carnivores. They hunt and eat animals they catch by ambushing them. They then pounce on them for a quick killing blow.

Their preferred prey is hare or rabbit. They eat this whenever they have the possibility. The exact species they prefer depends on the region. 

Generally, bobcats in the northern US and Canada eat snowshoe hare while those in the south eat cottontail rabbits.

Bobcats will hunt whatever is most available, even if there are rabbits around. This proves their adaptability, especially when compared with the Canadian lynx which is too specialized to hunt as effectively.[7]

Bobcat Diet and Prey

Bobcat Predators and Threats

Adult Bobcats don’t have many natural predators, but there are a few animals that pose a threat to them. Mountain lions, wolves, bears, and coyotes can all kill an adult bobcat. Bobcat kittens are at a higher risk of being preyed upon by large birds, foxes, and others.

Bobcats are usually predators, not prey. But, some animals that share their habitat hunt them. Here are the most common bobcat predators:

  • Mountain Lions
  • Wolves
  • Bears
  • Coyotes
  • Large birds of prey
  • Foxes

Mountain lions are much larger than bobcats and kill them whenever they get the chance. 

One wolf is also enough to take down a bobcat. As wolves usually hunt in packs, the feline doesn’t stand a chance. 

Coyotes also compete with and occasionally kill bobcats.[8]

Even smaller animals, like the weasel-like fisher, kill bobcats on occasion. Small predators only prey on kittens, not adult bobcats.

Related article: Bobcat Size Comparison

mountain lion on a branch

Bobcat Reproduction and Life Cycle

Bobcats live for five to 12 years in the wild. They mate once a year, giving birth to a litter of kittens. They have normal feline life cycles, growing up from helpless kittens to able predators.

Bobcat Reproduction

Bobcats begin reproducing after reaching sexual maturity, at about one year old for females and two years old for males. 

Mating generally happens around February or March. This is also when bobcat screaming sounds are usually heard.

Gestation lasts 60 to 70 days after which females give birth to litters of up to six kittens. The average litter size is two or four. 

Females raise the young alone. Sometimes a second litter is born in the fall, usually in September. Bobcats reproduce their whole lives.

Bobcat Life Cycle

Bobcats grow up fast. The newly born kittens are blind and fully dependent on their mom for food and warmth.

They pass through a few stages while growing up:

AgeBehaviour
8-12 days oldThey can open their eyes and see the world.
2 months oldKittens slowly stop drinking milk and start eating meat. They begin exploring around their den.
3-5 months oldThey explore further and start learning how to hunt.
8-11 months oldThey are progressively more independent.
12 months old +They leave their mom and search for their own range.

After leaving their mothers, bobcats have dangerous lives. The first year after leaving is usually fatal for many bobcats, only good hunters survive. By two years old they stop growing and begin adult bobcat life. 

Bobcat Lifespan

Bobcat Lifespan

The life of a bobcat is a dangerous one. They constantly have to hunt and avoid being injured. 

Bobcats’ lifespan is affected by many many things but the main two factors are prey availability and injury. An injured bobcat can’t hunt, so it will starve.

On average, wild bobcats live between five to 12 years. The oldest living wild bobcat died at 16 years old. In captivity, thanks to the stable conditions and human care bobcats regularly live to be over 20 years old.

Bobcat Relationship with Humans

Bobcats and humans have a difficult relationship. Humans are still hunting bobcats for their fur, although to a smaller degree than earlier in history. Bobcats often prey on livestock which financially affects farmers and small homesteaders.

Bobcats were historically hunted for their fur and are still being hunted to a lesser degree. They are the most hunted feline in the world in the last 20 years.[9]

They also suffer habitat loss to human expansion. Thanks to their versatility they have adapted well though. 

Bobcats thrive close to urban and suburban areas. As many live close to humans, they are hit by cars every once in a while.

Bobcat Relationship with Humans

Bobcat Population and Conservation Status

Bobcats are categorized as the least concern by the IUCN Redlist. Hunting and trapping bobcats have become increasingly regulated. This keeps their population stable. 

Bobcats have stable populations all across North America and are recovering in areas in which their populations were diminished. 

Their adaptability coupled with human effort keeps bobcats as a species of least concern.[10]

Bobcat Pictures

Bobcats are impressive wild creatures. Visually they can range from cute kittens to majestic and weathered veterans.

FAQs

Where Do Bobcats Sleep?

Bobcats sleep in dens. They can have many dens across their range, but they generally have a main den and a couple of secondary dens.

Do Bobcats Come Out During The Day?

Yes, they do. Bobcats sometimes come out during the day, mainly if their prey is easier to catch at that time.

How Fast Are Bobcats?

Bobcats are fast. They can run as fast as 30 miles per hour, enough to catch even the fastest cottontail rabbits.

Are Bobcats Omnivores?

No, bobcats are not omnivores but carnivores. They need meat to survive but they do eat some greens every now and then.

Do Bobcats Travel In Packs?

No, bobcats do not travel in packs as they are solitary animals. The only times when groups of bobcats can be seen together is during mating, or when females are raising their litter of kittens.

Do Bobcats Mate For Life?

No, bobcats don’t mate for life. The female raises the kittens alone and they switch partners yearly.

Do All Bobcats Have Spots?

Yes, bobcats always have spots. They can be more or less visible but they’re always there. Even a melanistic or all-black bobcat has spots if you look closely.

About Codrin Frunzete

Looking for something?

Try searching our website!