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Bobcat vs. Mountain Lion: 4 Key Differences Explained

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The main difference between bobcats and mountain lions is their physical appearance. There is a significant size difference as bobcats are much smaller than mountain lions. They are both predators, but mountain lions hunt larger prey.

There are many felines in the world, all of them related. Among them, we find bobcats and mountain lions.

Bobcats and mountain lions are some of the most efficient predators in their habitats. While they look somewhat similar, there are some key differences between the two.

In this article, we’ll find out how bobcats and mountain lions differ in appearance and behavior, how they are similar, and more.

Bobcat vs. Mountain Lion: An Overview

Bobcats and Mountain lions are both powerful predators. They are felines, carnivores, and some of the most efficient hunters in their habitats. A key difference is their size: bobcats are much smaller than mountain lions and don’t have the same strength.

Bobcats and mountain lions can often be mistaken for one another, especially if you’re uninformed. 

Here is a brief comparison of the animals:

TraitBobcat (Males)Mountain Lion (Males)
Avg. Length (with tail)2 feet 9 inches7 feet 10 inches
Height12–24 inches24–35 inches
Weight14–40 lbs110–220 lbs
Bite force548 N1311 N
DistributionFrom Southern Canada down to Southern MexicoWestern North America, Florida, and South America
DietCarnivoreCarnivore
Lifespan7–10 years in the wild8–13 years in the wild

Are Bobcats Mountain Lions?

No, bobcats are not mountain lions. There are many similarities between the two, but they are not part of the same genus. Bobcats belong to the Lynx genus while mountain lions to the Puma genus.

Bobcats and mountain lions are not the same species. They are closely related, being part of the same family. 

Here’s an overview of their taxonomy and classification:

ClassificationBobcatMountain Lion
ClassMammaliaMammalia
OrderCarnivoraCarnivora
SuborderFeliformiaFeliformia
FamilyFelidaeFelidae
SubfamilyFelinaeFelinae
GenusLynxPuma
SpeciesLynx rufusPuma concolor

Differences Between Bobcats and Mountain Lions

The main difference between bobcats and mountain lions is their size. They belong to different genera, and while they are still closely related there are plenty of differences. The size difference is the main reason for their behavioral differences.

Bobcats and mountain lions are quite different from each other, both physically and behaviorally.

Physical Differences

  • Mountain lions are larger than Bobcats and weigh five times more on average.
  • Bobcats have dark spots and have a darker base color than mountain lions.
  • Mountain lions are uniform in color.
  • Bobcats have shorter tails than mountain lions.
  • Bobcats have tufts on their ears and cheeks while mountain lions do not.
Bobcats and Mountain Lions Physical Differences

Behavioral Differences

  • Mountain lions hunt bigger prey than bobcats because of their size.
  • Bobcats prefer small and medium prey.
  • Bobcats tend to live closer to humans, while mountain lions live in isolated regions.
  • Bobcats are fast to adapt to changes in their habitat.
  • Mountain lions sometimes share meals while bobcats are completely solitary.

Differences Between Bobcats and Mountain Lions Tracks

The only real difference between the tracks of mountain lions and bobcats is the size. Adult mountain lions leave tracks over twice the size of bobcat tracks.

Their paw prints look similar.

Bobcat vs. Mountain Lion: Sounds

Bobcat vs. Mountain Lion Sounds

Bobcats and mountain lions make similar sounds, but bobcats’ sounds are closer to those of housecats while mountain lions have deeper vocalizations

Neither of them is capable of roaring like lions or tigers, but they make other sounds. 

Both of them are known for “screaming”, especially in mating season. They also both make meowing sounds and growls.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Bobcat and a Mountain Lion

You can tell the difference between a bobcat and a mountain lion by their size. Mountain lions are on average 5 times heavier than bobcats. Their tails and coat patterns also differ as bobcats have spots and darker base color, while mountain lions are uniform in color.

Bobcats and mountain lions differ a lot physically, especially in size. Their tails are also noticeably different as mountain lions have long tails and bobcats have short stubby ones. 

The only other apparent shape differences are the tufts that a bobcat has on its ears and cheeks.[1]

How to Tell the Difference Between a Bobcat and a Mountain Lion

Their coats are different too. Mountain lions are a uniform brown or tawny color with a white underside and black ears and tip of the tail. Bobcats can be anything from a greyish color to darker or reddish brown, similar to a fox. 

Bobcats also have dark spots all over their bodies while mountain lions are uniform in color.

Bobcats and mountain lions are usually spotted at night, being mainly nocturnal. Because of this, it can be hard to pinpoint which animal you’re looking at. 

The most reliable way to tell the difference is to look for tracks and scat. Both species have similar tracks with four toes and no claw marks. Mountain lions have bigger paws ranging between three and a half, to five inches wide. Bobcats have smaller paws, up to two and a quarter inches wide.

Similarities Between Bobcats and Mountain Lions

Bobcats and mountain lions are similar in many ways. They are felines and share many physical traits and behaviors. Their habitats also overlap, living across North America.

bobcat

Bobcats and mountain lions are both felines and closely related. They share an overall body shape and have a similar way of hunting.

Being predatory felines, they have strong, large back legs that allow them to leap high in the air when necessary. They also use these to pounce on their prey.

Both bobcats and mountain lions are carnivores and catch their prey by ambush hunting. While both eat meat, bobcats tend to eat smaller animals because of their size.

Bobcats are nocturnal and crepuscular, as are mountain lions. They are active and hunt around the same times of the day.

Mountain lions and bobcats share a lot of territories. Bobcats live across most of North America from southern Canada down to southern Mexico. Mountain lions have a bigger range, covering most of North and South America. They are mostly missing from the eastern US and Canada.

Are Bobcats and Mountain Lions Related?

Yes, bobcats and mountain lions are related. They share the same order, family, and subfamily, but belong to different genera. They resemble each other and are easily mistaken for one another at night.

Bobcats and mountain lions are related. They do not share the same genus, but are otherwise close relatives.

Thanks to their similarities in behavior and appearance they can sometimes be mistaken for each other.

Being related does not mean they are friendly with each other. Mountain lions can attack bobcats.

Bobcats Vs. Mountain Lions: Which Is Stronger?

Mountain lions are stronger than bobcats. Their size alone makes the bobcat look small in comparison. Sharing many of the same ranges, they often compete for food, but they don’t have the same preferences when it comes to prey.

Bobcats Vs. Mountain Lions Which Is Stronger

Mountain lions are stronger than bobcats by a large margin. Aside from bears and alligators, there aren’t many predators that can rival the mountain lion in North America.

Mountain lions also have stronger bites than bobcats. They have a bite force of around 1311 N compared to bobcats’ estimated bite force of 548 N.[2]

Bobcats, while great and versatile hunters, always lose against mountain lions.

Bobcats vs. Mountain Lions vs. Cougars

Mountain lions and cougars are names for the same animal. There aren’t any major differences between the two besides the name. North American mountain lions are usually called cougars while South American ones Pumas and other names.[3]

Bobcats are part of a different genus: the Lynx genus. They are closely related to the Lynx species and can be considered cousins of mountain lions. 

A mountain lion or cougar would win every single time against a bobcat.

The two subspecies of mountain lions are Puma concolor concolor and Puma concolor couguar, or the South American cougar and the North American cougar.

Related: Lynxes vs. Bobcats

Do Bobcats And Mountain Lions Ever Meet?

Yes, bobcats and mountain lions do occasionally meet in the wild. They share a lot of territories. Felines are solitary so they try to avoid contact with other animals, especially threatening ones.

Do Mountain Lions Eat Bobcats?

Yes, mountain lions eat bobcats. They prefer hunting deer and elk, but if the opportunity arises they will kill and eat bobcats. Easier prey is widely available to the mountain lions of North America but they will eat bobcats if they catch them.

Do Mountain Lions Eat Bobcats

Mountain lions do eat bobcats on occasion.[4] They do not actively hunt for bobcats as they are elusive and hard to find. Bobcats are also not as large as a mountain lion’s usual prey. 

When an opportunity crosses their path, mountain lions will catch and eat a bobcat. They won’t pass on an easy meal.

Bobcats vs. Mountain Lions: Which Is More Dangerous?

Mountain lions are much more dangerous when compared to bobcats. They’re much larger and powerful and can take out larger prey with relative ease. Neither one actively hunts humans, but both can potentially hurt you.

Mountain lions are more dangerous than bobcats. By its size alone you can tell that a mountain lion is more powerful. 

None of the two actively hunt humans. But if you meet any in the wild, it’s unlikely that a bobcat can kill you. Mountain lions (especially the bigger ones) can hurt or kill people if they feel threatened.

Mountain lions prefer to stay away from human settlements so they are not as dangerous to pets as bobcats. Bobcats thrive close to urban areas, often stealing food from yards and even killing cats and small dogs.

Related: Are Bobcats Dangerous?

Conclusion

Bobcats and mountain lions are quite different from one another even if they are both felines. Mountain lions are bigger and stronger than bobcats. Because of this, they hunt bigger prey and are much more dangerous to humans, especially at night in the wild. 

They are both widespread, skilled predators, and important to their ecosystems.

FAQs

Do Mountain Lions Live Close To Bobcats?

Mountain lions and bobcats live close to each other. They share a lot of territory across North America and can meet one another in the wild.

Does a Mountain Lion See Better Than a Bobcat at Night?

Mountain lions and bobcats see much better in low-light conditions than we can. Out of the two, mountain lions can see better, having finer eyesight at a distance. While bobcats only see in shades of grey, mountain lions can see some color tones.

About Codrin Frunzete

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