A Native American Cat

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a North American cat that appeared during the Irvingtonian stage of around 1.8 million years ago (AEO). Containing 12 recognized subspecies, it ranges from southern Canada to central Mexico, including most of the contiguous United States. The bobcat is an adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, as well as semidesert, urban edge, forest edge, and swampland environments.

It remains in some of its original range, but populations are vulnerable to local extinction (“extirpation”) by coyotes and domestic animals. With a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, the bobcat resembles the other species of the midsized Lynx genus. It is smaller on average than the Canada lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but is about twice as large as the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby tail, from which it derives its name.

Territorial Animals

Though the bobcat prefers rabbits and hares, it hunts insects, chickens, geese and other birds, small rodents, and deer. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season, and abundance. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary, although with some overlap in home ranges. It uses several methods to mark its territorial boundaries, including claw marks and deposits of urine or feces. The bobcat breeds from winter into spring and has a gestation period of about two months.

Solitary

Like most felines, the bobcat is largely solitary, but ranges often overlap. Unusual for cats, males are more tolerant of overlap, while females rarely wander into others’ ranges.   Given their smaller range sizes, two or more females may reside within a male’s home range. When multiple male territories overlap, a dominance hierarchy is often established, resulting in the exclusion of some transients from favored areas.

Tracks

Bobcat tracks show four toes without claw marks, due to their retractable claws. The tracks can range in size from 1 to 3 in (2.5 to 7.6 cm); the average is about 1.8 inches.   When walking or trotting, the tracks are spaced roughly 8 to 18 in (20 to 46 cm) apart. The bobcat can make great strides when running, often from 4 to 8 ft (1.2 to 2.4 m). 

Like all cats, the bobcat ‘directly registers’, meaning its hind prints usually fall exactly on top of its fore prints. Bobcat tracks can be generally distinguished from feral or house cat tracks by their larger size: about 2.0 in2 (13 cm²) versus 1.5 in2 (10 cm²).