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Bobcat: Characteristics, Diet, Facts & More [Fact Sheet]

Welcome to this comprehensive fact sheet about the bobcat, one of North America’s most adaptable and resilient wild cats. Named for its ‘bobbed’ tail, this feline has captured the imagination of people for generations due to its elusive nature and striking appearance.

Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a student researching this fascinating creature, or someone who is just curious, this article is designed to give you a well-rounded understanding of the bobcat.

The Bobcat at a Glance


Class:Mammalia (Mammals)
Species:L. rufus

Essential Information

Average Size:26–41 inches long (66–104 cm); 17–23 inches tall (43–58 cm)
Average Weight:15–33 pounds (6.8–15 kg)
Average Lifespan:7–10 years in the wild; up to 25 years in captivity
Geographical Range:North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico)
Conservation Status:Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

Species and Subspecies

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) belongs to the genus Lynx but is considered distinct from the other members of this genus, such as the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). While there are no formally recognized subspecies, there is some regional variation in appearance, size, and behavior across the bobcat’s range.

These differences are often subtle and subject to ongoing research, but they may include variations in fur color, from reddish-brown to grey, as well as slight differences in size and markings. For example, bobcats found in more northerly regions tend to be larger and have lighter-colored fur, possibly as adaptations to colder climates.

Bobcat on a branch


The bobcat is a medium-sized wildcat, distinctively characterized by its tufted ears and stubby “bobbed” tail, from which it gets its name. The coat is dense and varies in color from shades of brown, tan, or reddish-brown, often with spots or streaks that help the bobcat blend into its natural surroundings. The underparts are generally white with dark spots.

They have powerful legs and large paws, which are well-suited for climbing, sprinting, and pouncing on prey. One of the anatomically specific features of the bobcat is its retractable claws, which remain sharp for hunting by staying protected when not in use.

Sexual dimorphism is present, but not strongly pronounced. Males are generally larger and have broader heads and longer legs than females. Males typically weigh between 20–30 pounds (9–14 kg), while females are slightly lighter, usually between 15–25 pounds (7–11 kg).

Habitat and Distribution

Bobcats are highly adaptable animals, found in a variety of habitats across North America. Their range extends from southern Canada through the United States and into parts of Mexico. These habitats include forests, swamps, deserts, and even suburban areas.

They are elusive and typically select environments that provide ample cover and a variety of prey options. Bobcats are known for their adaptability and can live in proximity to human settlements as long as they have a sufficient food supply and shelter.

Bobcat face


Bobcats are primarily nocturnal, although they may be active at dusk and dawn and sometimes even during the day. They are solitary animals, with males and females only generally coming together for the mating season. Territories are marked and defended fiercely, especially by males, using scent markings, scrapes on the ground, and vocalizations.

In terms of communication, bobcats use a range of sounds like growls, hisses, and yowls, as well as non-vocal signals like body posture and tail movement. One particularly interesting behavior is their ability to “cache” food, covering a killed prey item with leaves or snow to return and feed on it later.

They are skilled climbers and often seek refuge or look for prey from trees. Bobcats are also good swimmers, but they prefer to avoid water when possible.

Diet and Feeding Behavior

Bobcats are carnivorous predators that rely on a diet primarily composed of small to medium-sized mammals and birds. Common prey items include rabbits, hares, rodents, and even small deer. They are also known to eat insects, reptiles, and occasionally livestock and poultry, which sometimes brings them into conflict with humans.

When it comes to hunting, bobcats are ambush predators. They use their keen senses of sight and hearing to locate prey, and then employ a stealthy approach, often from a concealed vantage point.

A swift and powerful pounce allows them to capture their prey. Bobcats are also adept at climbing trees to either stalk or ambush prey, and they’ve been known to store larger kills in trees to feed on later.


Despite being apex predators within their own right, bobcats do have a few natural predators to be wary of, particularly during their younger stages.

These include coyotes, wolves, and large birds of prey such as eagles. In certain regions, they also have to contend with larger felines like mountain lions. Humans are another threat, not as natural predators but due to hunting, trapping, and vehicle strikes.

Two bobcats

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Bobcats are generally solitary except during the breeding season, which varies depending on the geographic location but usually occurs between February and March. After a gestation period of about 60-70 days, a female bobcat gives birth to a litter of one to six kittens. The kittens are born blind and are weaned at about two months of age.

The mother takes sole responsibility for rearing the young, teaching them to hunt and survive in the wild. By six months, the young bobcats are already skilled hunters and may soon disperse to establish their own territories. They reach sexual maturity around one year of age for females and by the second year for males.

Conservation and Threats

The bobcat is currently listed as a species of “Least Concern” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, it faces threats from habitat loss due to urbanization and agriculture. In some areas, bobcats are hunted or trapped for their fur, although this is regulated in many states within the U.S.

Conservation efforts primarily focus on habitat preservation and management. Creating corridors between fragmented habitats can help bobcats roam more freely and avoid human encounters. There are no specific conservation programs focused solely on bobcats, but they do benefit from broader wildlife conservation efforts that aim to preserve the integrity of the ecosystems they inhabit.

Fun Facts

  1. Ears Have It: The “tufts” on their ears are more than just for show; they enhance their keen sense of hearing.
  2. Night Life: Bobcats are largely nocturnal but can be active during the day, especially when it comes to avoiding human activity.
  3. Swim Team: Unlike many other feline species, bobcats are good swimmers and don’t hesitate to enter water.
  4. Track Star: The bobcat’s name is derived from its “bobbed” or shortened tail, which appears “cut” or “bobbed.”
  5. Versatile Diners: Bobcats can adapt their diet to whatever is most readily available, making them highly adaptable to various environments.

Frequently Asked Questions

How big do bobcats get?

Adult bobcats typically weigh between 15-40 pounds and measure from 26 to 41 inches in length, not including the tail.

Can bobcats climb trees?

Yes, bobcats are skilled climbers and often use trees to scout territory or evade predators.

Are bobcats dangerous to humans?

Bobcats generally avoid humans and are not considered a significant threat. However, like all wild animals, they can become aggressive if cornered or threatened.

What do bobcats sound like?

Bobcats have a variety of vocalizations, including growls, hisses, yowls, and even screams. They are generally quiet animals but can be vocal during mating season.

How long do bobcats live?

In the wild, bobcats generally live for 7 to 10 years, although some have been known to live up to 14 years. In captivity, they can live up to 25 years.

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