Bobcats leave tracks in the form of paw prints all around their huge range across North America. Their prints are similar to domestic cat prints, only larger. They keep their claws sheathed when walking, so there are no claws in the tracks.
Bobcats put their paws and claws to good use. They stay silent while hunting thanks to their padded paws, but they can instantly use their claws when they need to by unsheathing them.
So what do their paw prints really look like? How long are their claws and how do you tell their tracks apart from other felines?
We’ll answer these questions and more about bobcats’ paws and claws in this article.
Bobcat Paw Prints
Bobcats have distinct paw prints. Their prints look similar to domestic cats’ with two main differences: they are larger and show four toes without claw marks. They are easily mistaken for the prints of other felines, like lynxes, mountain lions, and domestic cats.
Bobcat paw prints have an overall round shape. The prints show four toes and no claws, as bobcats have retractable claws.
Their prints are larger than average house cats. Paw prints from big domestic cats (like Maine Coons) are often mistaken for bobcats’.
Bobcat paws are usually about two square inches. In the wild, bobcat tracks are sometimes mistaken for lynx or even mountain lion tracks.
Compared to both lynxes and mountain lions, bobcats have smaller paws. Lynx prints also have less clear toe prints and mountain lion prints are wider.
Related: Bobcat Identification
Do Bobcats Have Claws?
Yes, bobcats have claws. The reason why they don’t show up in paw prints is that bobcats have retractable claws. Like most felines, they only show their claws when they are using them.
Bobcats have claws. They use them when hunting and climbing.
Like most felines other felines, they have retractable claws. When the claws aren’t used, they are pulled back into their paws.To show its claws a bobcat flexes its paws.
They don’t use their claws while walking and running. As felines, bobcats walk and run on their toes, so it’s necessary to keep their claws retracted if they want to stay quiet. It also keeps the claws sharp.
How Long Are Bobcat Claws?
Bobcats’ claws are one inch long on average. They have the characteristic hooked shape that domestic cat claws also have.
Claws are a useful tool for bobcats. They use them to climb trees and hold on to prey.
How Do Bobcats Walk?
Bobcats move around their environment as quietly as possible. They are ambush hunters and they have to take their prey by surprise to eat. That’s why they retract their claws when walking.
When bobcats walk, they stay as silent as possible. They walk on their toes, claws retracted, so produce as little sound as possible.
Like all felines, bobcats step with their back feet in the same place as their front feet. This is called “directly registering”.
Directly registering helps reduce the noise made while walking even further because stepping in the same spot means they touch less of the environment.
Bobcat Paw Prints vs. Other Animal Paw Prints
Bobcats share their habitat with many other species. Without knowing the characteristic of an animal’s paws and prints, it’s hard to distinguish between them. Bobcats’ prints can be easily differentiated though.
Bobcats have a massive range in North America. As such, they share their habitat with a large variety of other species.
Bobcat prints are mistaken for those of the following animals:
|Prints compared to bobcat prints
|Bear prints are way too large. They are wider rather than longer and they also have claw marks.
|Wolves and large dogs leave larger paw prints than any bobcat can. Their prints also have claw markings.
|Smaller coyote prints are close in size to bobcat prints. Their prints are generally a bit larger. Claw markings can be observed here too.
|Fox tracks are similar in size but differ a lot in shape. A foxes print has the toes further from the “heel” and the toes spread apart a bit more. They also leave claw marks, especially with the two toes in the front.
|Lynx prints are much larger than bobcat prints. They are similar in shape but lynxes leave bigger, softer prints thanks to their large fur-covered paws.
|Mountain lions leave big prints that resemble bobcat prints. No bobcat can leave a print of that size, even smaller female lions have bigger paws.
|Feral cats and bobcats leave similar paw prints. On average bobcats’ prints are larger although they can be close in size too. Bobcat tracks are usually a bit more robust than cat tracks.
Unless you’re dealing with another feline, bobcat marks are easy to distinguish by the lack of claw marks.
If the tracks are longer than 2 inches chances are, they’re not bobcat tracks.
Related article: Bobcat Size Comparison
Bobcats vs. Lynxes vs. Mountain Lions Paws and Claws
Bobcats and lynxes are closely related and similar in many ways. Canada lynxes, which share territory with bobcats, are similar in size, but lynxes have much bigger paws. They are comparable in size to mountain lions’ paws.
The hooked claws of these North American felines are also different.
|¾-1 inch long
|¾-1¼ inches long
|1 ½-2½ inches long
How Do You Tell Feline Tracks Apart?
Once you know what to look for it’s easy to tell the difference between lynx, mountain lion, and bobcat tracks.
Bobcats have the smallest paws of the three so they are the easiest to recognize.
If you aren’t certain when judging by the paw shape and size, look at the distance between steps.
Mountain lions and lynxes have similar-sized paws but lions are much larger than lynxes. Because they are bigger they take bigger steps or have a larger stride.
If the prints are large but the stride is short, you’re looking at lynx tracks. Otherwise, they’re lion tracks.
Related article: Bobcat vs. Lynx
Bobcats have paws similar to domestic cats, but larger and more robust on average. Their tracks are distinct, with small paw prints and a shorter stride than other felines in North America. They have sharp, hooked, one-inch-long claws which they use to climb, hold onto pray and get better footing on steep hills.
How Big Are Bobcat Paw Prints?
Bobcat paw prints can range from one and a half to over two squared inches. It depends on the size of the bobcat.