Basic Facts About Bobcats
The most common wildcat in North America, the bobcat is named for its short, bobbed tail. They are medium-sized cats and are slightly smaller but similar in appearance to their cousin, the lynx. Their coats vary in color from shades of beige to brown fur with spotted or lined markings in dark brown or black.
© Stephan Lins
Bobcats mainly hunt rabbits and hares.
Bobcats are also known to eat rodents, birds, bats and even
adult deer, which they usually consume during the winter months, as well as lambs, poultry and young pigs when a ranch is near.
Approximately 725,000 to 1,020,000 bobcats remain in the wild.
Bobcats were once found throughout most of North America from northern Mexico to southern Canada. In the early to mid 1900s, bobcat populations in many Midwestern and eastern states of the United States were decimated due to the increased value of its fur. However, international laws began to protect the world's spotted cats in the 1970s, and populations have rebounded since then. Today, populations are stable in many northern states and are reviving in many others.
Bobcat habitat varies widely from forests and mountainous areas to semi-deserts and brush land. A habitat dense with vegetation and lots of prey is ideal. Bobcats are excellent hunters, stalking prey with stealth and patience, then capturing their meals with one great leap.
Usually solitary and territorial animals, females never share territory with each other. Male territories, however, tend to overlap. Territories are established with scent markings and territory sizes are extremely varied – generally 25-30 square miles for males and about five square miles for females.
Dens: Each bobcat may have several dens, one main den and several auxiliary dens, in its territory.
- Main den: Usually a cave or rock shelter, but can be a hollow log, fallen tree, or some other protected place. (Also called the natal den)
- Auxiliary dens: Located in less-visited portions of the home range and are often brush piles, rock ledges or stumps. These are also called shelter dens.
Mating season: Late winter, but throughout the year is possible.
Gestation: 50- 70 days. Kittens are usually born around early spring.
Litter size: 1 – 6 kittens.
The kittens begin eating solid food at around two months and begin learning to hunt at 5 months. When they are between 8 and 11 months, the kittens are evicted from their mother's territory.
In Mexico, bobcats are persecuted as sheep predators and are frequently killed by farmers. They are still hunted and trapped for their fur throughout most of their range. Habitat destruction and the ever-expanding human population limit their ranges.
What Defenders Is Doing to Help
Starting in 2004, Defenders has partnered with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife to track, capture, and collar bobcats in the State of New Jersey in order to determine their movements and which habitats are important to their survival. This valuable data will help biologists create a protection and management strategy that focuses on preserving the most critical bobcat habitat.