Bobcats live five to ten years in the wild with an average of seven years. In captivity, bobcats get much older and regularly live more than 20 years thanks to human care.
Bobcats’ life expectancy in the wild depends on several factors, such as prey abundance and competition with other species.
They go through several stages during their lives, starting out as kits and eventually reaching adulthood. But there are risks along the way.
In this article, we’ll discuss the lifespan of bobcats, why they live longer in captivity, and more.
How Long Do Bobcats Live?
Bobcats live between five to ten years in the wild, but their average lifespan is seven years old. Bobcats live much longer in captivity, mainly because they don’t have to struggle for food.
Bobcats lead solitary predatory lives. Because of this, their survival is closely tied to their ability to hunt.
In the wild, young bobcats that can hunt successfully live for five to ten years. Their average lifespan is only seven years.
Captive bobcats have longer lifespans and often live more than 20 years. This is because they have favorable conditions, provided by humans:
- Abundance of food
- No risk related to hunting
- Medical care
- No competition with other animals
- No risk of predation
Bobcats have an average life expectancy of 18 years in captivity.
How Long Do Bobcats Live in the Wild?
Bobcats live five to ten years old in the wild. Under the perfect circumstances, they live up to 12-13 years. The oldest recorded wild bobcat reached 16 years of age.
Juvenile bobcats that are bad at hunting generally die in the first year after leaving their mother. Their survival depends on their ability to catch prey by themselves, so weak hunters will die.
How Long Do Bobcats Live in Captivity?
Bobcats, like many other predators, have a longer lifespan in human care. This is thanks to the food and safety provided by their caretakers. They live around 18 years on average but can live longer. The oldest bobcat in captivity reached the age of 32.
Many bobcat kittens that are found by humans are adopted, either because they are mistaken for domestic cats or because they want an exotic pet.
These adopted bobcats generally become too much to handle for their owners and end up with a wildlife organization.
Bobcats in the care of zoos or wildlife centers enjoy the care of professionals and regularly live past the age of 20.
Factors That Determine the Lifespan of Bobcats
Bobcats’ lifespan is affected by several factors, including juvenile deaths, predation, food availability, diseases, parasites, and human activity. The combination of all these factors affects their lifespan.
The lifespan of bobcats is affected by seven main factors:
- Juvenile death
- Food availability
- Diseases and parasites
- Human activity
1. Juvenile Death
Bobcat kittens are more susceptible to dangers in their habitat. They are fully dependent on their mother until they can reliably hunt for themselves at 8 months of age.
At this point, they are not expert hunters as they need some experience.
There are mainly five things that affect kittens’ survival rates:
- Neglect: Inexperienced female bobcats can make mistakes and neglect their kits.
- Abandonment: Younger mothers are traumatized by birth and sometimes abandon whole litters.
- Starvation: If food is scarce or the mother can’t catch enough to feed the kits, they suffer from starvation.
- Predation: Baby bobcats are at a higher risk of predation than adults. Even animals that don’t attack adults will attack and kill kittens.
- Disease and parasites: Young kittens are especially affected by parasites. This increases the effects of other factors, like starvation.
Bobcats have few natural predators, but they are hunted by larger carnivores such as mountain lions, wolves, and alligators.
Coyotes are also usually larger than bobcats and are a danger to both adult bobcats and kits. They are even killed by large fishers at times.
Predators that don’t attack adult bobcats hunt their kittens. Foxes, coyotes, bears, fishers, and birds of prey can easily take kittens from their dens.
3. Food Availability
The lack of prey affects the survival rates of bobcats, especially kits without hunting experience.
Bobcats are versatile hunters and adapt well to changes in types of available prey. They are much better at adapting than their close relative, the lynx.
Thanks to their versatility as hunters, bobcats have been observed radically changing their diets. They hunt what is most available and easiest to catch, and adapt well to prey populations increases and decrease.
Competition with other predators diminishes the effectiveness of bobcats’ hunting.
Coyotes are especially competitive toward bobcats. They are larger but hunt the same animals. They also kill bobcats and steal prey from them.
An injured predator is in danger of losing its ability to hunt. If an injury is debilitating and doesn’t heal fast, bobcats will starve.
Injured bobcats are also easier prey for other animals.
Bobcats usually eat smaller to medium-sized animals. This is the easiest prey to catch and is less risky. If there’s a lack of preferred prey, bobcats do try to kill bigger animals, like deer and elk.
Hunting for large animals is a great risk for a bobcat. Large prey can injure or kill bobcats with their hooves and antlers.
6. Diseases and parasites
It isn’t completely understood by scientists how much diseases and parasites affect the lifespan and survival rates of bobcats. Some diseases seem to not affect bobcats’ health while others can be lethal.
Diseases such as notoedric mange can be fatal. They are also affected by microorganisms and parasites in such a way that starvation or injury becomes a bigger problem.
7. Human Activity
Bobcats were historically prized for their exquisite fur. Hunters and trappers throughout North America have always profited from their beauty.
Bobcats are the most hunted and harvested feline of the last 20 years.
Awareness about the methods used to catch them is increasing but there is still a demand for their fur. Hunting and trapping of bobcats are becoming more regulated.
Human expansion into their habitat also affects bobcats. This results in a lack of prey and drives bobcats out of certain regions.
But, bobcats are highly adaptable and are getting used to living close to human settlements. They are thriving in suburban areas.
Most Common Causes of Death for Bobcats
The main causes of bobcats’ deaths in recent years is disease followed by road mortality. Bobcats are regularly hit by cars, especially at night.
The disease responsible for most bobcat deaths is notoedric mange, also known as feline scabies. The disease causes animals to harm themselves by scratching which can easily lead to other infections.
Its symptoms also include apathy and anorexia, which can eventually lead to death.
Bobcats Life Cycle
Bobcats grow up fast. They start as helpless kittens and transition into young cats after a year. They continue maturing for two or three years until they reach their adult size. They become less efficient hunters as they grow old.
Bobcats have a normal life cycle for a solitary predator. It can be divided into the following stages:
|Birth to 2 months old
|They are completely dependent on their mother for food and protection, they are weaned and start eating solid food.
|2 to 8-11 months old
|Their mother teaches them how to hunt and they slowly become more independent.
|8-15 months old
|At some point, depending on region and season they leave their mother’s range and begin life as young bobcats.
|Around 12 months old
|Females reach sexual maturity and can start reproducing.
|Around 24 months old
|Males reach sexual maturity and can start reproducing.
|Around 24 months old
|Both sexes reach their adult size.
|After 2 years
|They are mature and lead normal lives.
|After 7 years
|They slowly start aging, and they hunt less effectively.
|This is the max average age to which wild bobcats live.
Bobcat females have litters yearly or even twice a year. They reproduce until their death.
Bobcats normally live for five to ten years in the wild but can live up to 12-13 years old, but the average lifespan is 7 years old. In captivity, they can get much older, regularly passing 20 years old. Their life cycle is normal for mammals, as they go from helpless kittens to young bobcats, and experienced hunters before slowly aging and dying.
What’s The Longest Living Bobcat?
The longest-living bobcat ever managed to reach 32 years of age in captivity. The oldest recorded wild bobcat lived to 16 years old.
Where Do Bobcats Live?
Bobcats live all across North America. They are adaptable and can be found anywhere from deserts and rocky mountain plateaus to swamps and boreal forests.