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Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Subfamily: Felinae
Genus: Lynx
L. rufus
Binomial name
Lynx rufus
(Schreber, 1777)
Bobcat distribution2016.jpg
Distribution of Bobcat, 2016 [1]
  • Felis rufusSchreber

The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a medium-sized North American cat [2] that appeared during the Irvingtonian stage of around 1.8 million years ago (AEO). [3] Containing 2 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 genus Lynx . It is smaller on average than the Canada lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but is several times larger than the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby (or "bobbed") tail, from which it derives its name.

North America Continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere

North America is a continent entirely within the Northern Hemisphere and almost all within the Western Hemisphere; it is also considered by some to be a northern subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.

Felidae Family of mammals

Felidae is a family of mammals in the order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitute a clade. A member of this family is also called a felid. The term "cat" refers both to felids in general and specifically to the domestic cat.

The Irvingtonian North American Land Mammal Age on the geologic timescale is the North American faunal stage according to the North American Land Mammal Ages chronology (NALMA), spanning from 1.9 million – 250,000 years BP. Named after an assemblage of fossils from the Irvington District of Fremont, California, the Irvingtonian is usually considered to overlap the Lower Pleistocene and Middle Pleistocene epochs. The Irvingtonian is preceded by the Blancan and followed by the Rancholabrean NALMA stages.


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.

Rabbit Mammals of the family Leporidae

Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha. Oryctolagus cuniculus includes the European rabbit species and its descendants, the world's 305 breeds of domestic rabbit. Sylvilagus includes 13 wild rabbit species, among them the 7 types of cottontail. The European rabbit, which has been introduced on every continent except Antarctica, is familiar throughout the world as a wild prey animal and as a domesticated form of livestock and pet. With its widespread effect on ecologies and cultures, the rabbit is, in many areas of the world, a part of daily life—as food, clothing, a companion, and as a source of artistic inspiration.

Hare A genus of mammals in the family Leporidae

Hares and jackrabbits are leporids belonging to the genus Lepus. Hares are classified in the same family as rabbits. They are similar in size and form to rabbits and have similar herbivorous diets, but generally have longer ears and live solitarily or in pairs. Also unlike rabbits, their young are able to fend for themselves shortly after birth rather than emerging blind and helpless. Most are fast runners. Hare species are native to Africa, Eurasia, North America, and the Japanese archipelago.

Insect Class of invertebrates

Insects or Insecta are hexapod invertebrates and the largest group within the arthropod phylum. Definitions and circumscriptions vary; usually, insects comprise a class within the Arthropoda. As used here, the term Insecta is synonymous with Ectognatha. Insects have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body, three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes and one pair of antennae. Insects are the most diverse group of animals; they include more than a million described species and represent more than half of all known living organisms. The total number of extant species is estimated at between six and ten million; potentially over 90% of the animal life forms on Earth are insects. Insects may be found in nearly all environments, although only a small number of species reside in the oceans, which are dominated by another arthropod group, crustaceans.

Although bobcats have been hunted extensively by humans, both for sport and fur, their population has proven resilient though declining in some areas. The elusive predator features in Native American mythology and the folklore of European settlers.

Mythologies of the indigenous peoples of the Americas Wikimedia list article

The indigenous peoples of the Americas comprise numerous different cultures. Each has its own mythologies. Some are quite distinct, but certain themes are shared across the cultural boundaries.


The Canada lynx has distinct tufts atop its ears and longer "mutton chop" style fur on its lower face Ernest Ingersoll - lynx rufus & lynx canadensis.png
The Canada lynx has distinct tufts atop its ears and longer “mutton chop” style fur on its lower face

There had been debate over whether to classify this species as Lynx rufus or Felis rufus as part of a wider issue regarding whether the four species of Lynx should be given their own genus, or be placed as a subgenus of Felis . [4] [5] The genus Lynx is now accepted, and the bobcat is listed as Lynx rufus in modern taxonomic sources.

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, as well as viruses, in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

Subgenus taxonomic rank

In biology, a subgenus is a taxonomic rank directly below genus.

<i>Felis</i> genus of mammals

Felis is a genus of small and medium-sized cat species native to most of Africa and south of 60° latitude in Europe and Asia to Indochina.

Johnson et al. reported Lynx shared a clade with the puma, leopard cat ( Prionailurus ), and domestic cat ( Felis ) lineages, dated to 7.15 million years ago (mya); Lynx diverged first, approximately 3.24 million years ago. [6]

Clade A group of organisms that consists of a common ancestor and all its lineal descendants

A clade, also known as monophyletic group, is a group of organisms that consists of a common ancestor and all its lineal descendants, and represents a single "branch" on the "tree of life".

<i>Puma</i> (genus) genus of mammals

Puma is a genus in the family Felidae that contains the cougar, and may also include several poorly known Old World fossil representatives. In addition to these potential Old World fossils, a few New World fossil representatives are possible, such as Puma pumoides and the two proposed species of the so-called "American cheetah".

<i>Prionailurus</i> genus of mammals

Prionailurus is a genus of spotted, small wild cats native to Asia. Forests are their preferred habitat; they feed on small mammals, reptiles and birds, some also on aquatic wildlife.

The bobcat is believed to have evolved from the Eurasian lynx, which crossed into North America by way of the Bering Land Bridge during the Pleistocene, with progenitors arriving as early as 2.6 million years ago. [5] The first wave moved into the southern portion of North America, which was soon cut off from the north by glaciers. This population evolved into modern bobcats around 20,000 years ago. A second population arrived from Asia and settled in the north, developing into the modern Canada lynx. [4] Hybridization between the bobcat and the Canada lynx may sometimes occur. [7]

Eurasian lynx Small wild cat

The Eurasian lynx is a medium-sized wild cat occurring from Northern, Central and Eastern Europe to Central Asia and Siberia, the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. It inhabits temperate and boreal forests up to an altitude of 5,500 m (18,000 ft). Because of its wide distribution, it has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2008. It is threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, poaching and depletion of prey. The European lynx population is estimated at comprising maximum 10,000 individuals and is considered stable.

The Pleistocene is the geological epoch which lasted from about 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the world's most recent period of repeated glaciations. The end of the Pleistocene corresponds with the end of the last glacial period and also with the end of the Paleolithic age used in archaeology.

Glacier Persistent body of ice that is moving under its own weight

A glacier is a persistent body of dense ice that is constantly moving under its own weight; it forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. Glaciers slowly deform and flow due to stresses induced by their weight, creating crevasses, seracs, and other distinguishing features. They also abrade rock and debris from their substrate to create landforms such as cirques and moraines. Glaciers form only on land and are distinct from the much thinner sea ice and lake ice that form on the surface of bodies of water.


13 bobcat subspecies have been historically recognized based on morphological characteristics:

This subspecies division has been challenged, given a lack of clear geographic breaks in their ranges and the minor differences between these subspecies. [10] The latest revision of cat taxonomy in 2017, by the Cat Classification Taskforce of the Cat Specialist Group recognises only two subspecies, based on phylogeographic and genetic studies, although the status of the Mexican bobcat (Lynx rufus esquinapae syn. Lynx rufus oaxacensis) remains under review: [2] [11]

Physical characteristics

The bobcat's short tail isn't always visible Bobcat500.jpg
The bobcat’s short tail isn’t always visible
The small tufts on a bobcat's ears are difficult to spot at even moderate distance Bobbie 2010 2.jpg
The small tufts on a bobcat’s ears are difficult to spot at even moderate distance

The bobcat resembles other species of the midsize genus Lynx , but is on average the smallest of the four. Its coat is variable, though generally tan to grayish-brown, with black streaks on the body and dark bars on the forelegs and tail. Its spotted patterning acts as camouflage. The ears are black-tipped and pointed, with short, black tufts. Generally, an off-white color is seen on the lips, chin, and underparts. Bobcats in the desert regions of the southwest have the lightest-colored coats, while those in the northern, forested regions are darkest. Kittens are born well-furred and already have their spots. [12] A few melanistic bobcats have been sighted and captured in Florida. They appear black, but may still exhibit a spot pattern. [13]

The face appears wide due to ruffs of extended hair beneath the ears. Bobcat eyes are yellow with black pupils. The nose of the bobcat is pinkish-red, and it has a base color of gray or yellowish- or brownish-red on its face, sides, and back. [14] The pupils are round, black circles and will widen during nocturnal activity to maximize light reception. [15] The cat has sharp hearing and vision, and a good sense of smell. It is an excellent climber, and swims when it needs to, but normally avoids water. [16] However, cases of bobcats swimming long distances across lakes have been recorded. [17]

The adult bobcat is 47.5 to 125 cm (18.7 to 49.2 in) long from the head to the base of its distinctive stubby tail, averaging 82.7 cm (32.6 in); the tail, which appears “bobbed” and gives the species its name, [18] [19] [20] [21] adds 9 to 20 cm (3.5 to 7.9 in) [14]

An adult stands about 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in) at the shoulders. [12] [22] Adult males can range in weight from 6.4 to 18.3 kg (14 to 40 lb), with an average of 9.6 kg (21 lb); females at 4 to 15.3 kg (8.8 to 33.7 lb), with an average of 6.8 kg (15 lb). [23] [24] The largest bobcat accurately measured on record weighed 22.2 kg (49 lb), although unverified reports have them reaching 27 kg (60 lb). [25] Furthermore, a June 20, 2012 report of a New Hampshire roadkill specimen listed the animal's weight at 27 kg (60 lb). [26] The largest-bodied bobcats are from eastern Canada and northern New England of the subspecies L. r. gigas, while the smallest are from the southeastern subspecies L. r. floridanus, particularly those in the southern Appalachians. [27] The bobcat is muscular, and its hind legs are longer than its front legs, giving it a bobbing gait. At birth, it weighs 0.6 to 0.75 lb (270 to 340 g) and is about 10 in (25 cm) in length. By its first birthday, it weighs about 10 lb (4.5 kg). [16]

The cat is larger in its northern range and in open habitats. [28] A morphological size comparison study in the eastern United States found a divergence in the location of the largest male and female specimens, suggesting differing selection constraints for the sexes. [29]


The bobcat is crepuscular, and is active mostly during twilight. It keeps on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight, and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise. Each night, it moves from 2 to 7 mi (3.2 to 11.3 km) along its habitual route. [16] This behavior may vary seasonally, as bobcats become more diurnal during fall and winter in response to the activity of their prey, which are more active during the day in colder weather. [15]

Social structure and home range

Cat spotted in South San Jose, California Calero Creek Trail Bobcat.jpg
Cat spotted in South San Jose, California

Bobcat activities are confined to well-defined territories, which vary in size depending on the sex and the distribution of prey. The home range is marked with feces, urine scent, and by clawing prominent trees in the area. [30] In its territory, the bobcat has numerous places of shelter, usually a main den, and several auxiliary shelters on the outer extent of its range, such as hollow logs, brush piles, thickets, or under rock ledges. Its den smells strongly of the bobcat. [31]

The sizes of bobcats' home ranges vary significantly; a World Conservation Union (IUCN) summary of research suggests ranges from 0.23 to 126 sq mi (0.60 to 326.34 km2). [28] One study in Kansas found resident males to have ranges of roughly 8 sq mi (21 km2), and females less than half that area. Transient bobcats were found to have both larger (roughly 22 sq mi (57 km2)) and less well-defined home ranges. Kittens had the smallest range at about 3 sq mi (7.8 km2). [32] Dispersal from the natal range is most pronounced with males. [33]

Reports on seasonal variation in range size have been equivocal. One study found a large variation in male range sizes, from 16 sq mi (41 km2) in summer up to 40 sq mi (100 km2) in winter. [31] Another found that female bobcats, especially those which were reproductively active, expanded their home range in winter, but that males merely shifted their range without expanding it, which was consistent with numerous earlier studies. [34] Other research in various American states has shown little or no seasonal variation. [32] [35] [36]

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. [34] Given their smaller range sizes, two or more females may reside within a male's home range. When multiple territories overlap, a dominance hierarchy is often established, resulting in the exclusion of some transients from favored areas. [31]

In line with widely differing estimates of home range size, population density figures are divergent, from one to 38 bobcats per 10 sq mi (26 km2) in one survey. [28] The average is estimated at one bobcat per 5 square miles (13 km2). [31] A link has been observed between population density and sex ratio. One study noted a dense, unhunted population in California had a sex ratio of 2.1 males per female. When the density decreased, the sex ratio skewed to 0.86 males per female. Another study observed a similar ratio, and suggested the males may be better able to cope with the increased competition, and this helped limit reproduction until various factors lowered the density. [37]

Hunting and diet

Bobcats often prey on rabbits, hares, and rodents. Bobcat having caught a rabbit.jpg
Bobcats often prey on rabbits, hares, and rodents.

The bobcat is able to survive for long periods without food, but eats heavily when prey is abundant. During lean periods, it often preys on larger animals, which it can kill and return to feed on later. The bobcat hunts by stalking its prey and then ambushing with a short chase or pounce. Its preference is for mammals weighing about 1.5 to 12.5 lb (0.68 to 5.67 kg). Its main prey varies by region. In the eastern United States, it is the eastern cottontail species, and in the north it is the snowshoe hare. When these prey species exist together, as in New England, they are the primary food sources of the bobcat. In the far south, the rabbits and hares are sometimes replaced by cotton rats as the primary food source. Birds up to the size of an adult swan are also taken in ambushes, along with their fledglings and eggs. [38] The bobcat is an opportunistic predator that, unlike the more specialized Canada lynx, readily varies its prey selection. [28] Diet diversification positively correlates to a decline in numbers of the bobcat's principal prey; the abundance of its main prey species is the main determinant of overall diet. [39]

The bobcat hunts animals of different sizes, and adjusts its hunting techniques accordingly. With small animals, such as rodents (including squirrels), birds, fish including small sharks, [40] and insects, it hunts in areas known to be abundant in prey, and will lie, crouch, or stand, and wait for victims to wander close. It then pounces, grabbing its prey with its sharp, retractable claws. For slightly larger animals, such as geese, rabbits, and hares, it stalks from cover and waits until prey comes within 20 to 35 ft (6.1 to 10.7 m) before rushing in to attack. Less commonly, it feeds on larger animals, such as young ungulates, and other carnivores, such as fishers (primarily female), foxes, minks, martens, skunks, small dogs, and domesticated cats. [31] [41] [42] [43] [44] Bobcats are considered the major predatory threat to the endangered whooping crane. [45] Bobcats are also occasional hunters of livestock and poultry. While larger species, such as cattle and horses, are not known to be attacked, bobcats do present a threat to smaller ruminants, such as sheep and goats. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, bobcats killed 11,100 sheep in 2004, comprising 4.9% of all sheep predator deaths. [46] However, some amount of bobcat predation may be misidentified, as bobcats have been known to scavenge on the remains of livestock kills by other animals. [47]

It has been known to kill deer, especially in winter when smaller prey is scarce, or when deer populations become more abundant. One study in the Everglades showed a large majority of kills (33 of 39) were fawns, but prey up to eight times the bobcat's weight could be successfully taken. [48] It stalks the deer, often when the deer is lying down, then rushes in and grabs it by the neck before biting the throat, base of the skull, or chest. On the rare occasions a bobcat kills a deer, it eats its fill and then buries the carcass under snow or leaves, often returning to it several times to feed. [31]

The bobcat prey base overlaps with that of other midsized predators of a similar ecological niche. Research in Maine has shown little evidence of competitive relationships between the bobcat and coyote or red fox; separation distances and territory overlap appeared random among simultaneously monitored animals. [49] However, other studies have found bobcat populations may decrease in areas with high coyote populations, with the more social inclination of the canid giving them a possible competitive advantage. [50] With the Canada lynx, however, the interspecific relationship affects distribution patterns; competitive exclusion by the bobcat is likely to have prevented any further southward expansion of the range of its felid relative. [5]

Reproduction and life cycle

Bobcat kittens in June, about 2-4 months old Bobcat-Texas-9110.jpg
Bobcat kittens in June, about 2–4 months old

The average bobcat lifespan is 7 years long and rarely exceeds 10 years. The oldest wild bobcat on record was 16 years old, and the oldest captive bobcat lived to be 32. [37]

Bobcats generally begin breeding by their second summer, though females may start as early as their first year. Sperm production begins each year by September or October, and the male is fertile into the summer. A dominant male travels with a female and mates with her several times, generally from winter until early spring; this varies by location, but most mating takes place during February and March. The pair may undertake a number of different behaviors, including bumping, chasing, and ambushing. Other males may be in attendance, but remain uninvolved. Once the male recognizes the female is receptive, he grasps her in the typical felid neck grip and mates with her. The female may later go on to mate with other males, [31] and males generally mate with several females. [51] During courtship, the otherwise silent bobcat may let out loud screams, hisses, or other sounds. [52] Research in Texas has suggested establishing a home range is necessary for breeding; studied animals with no set range had no identified offspring. [33] The female has an estrous cycle of 44 days, with the estrus lasting five to ten days. Bobcats remain reproductively active throughout their lives. [15] [51]

The female raises the young alone. One to six, but usually two to four, kittens are born in April or May, after roughly 60 to 70 days of gestation. Sometimes, a second litter is born as late as September. The female generally gives birth in an enclosed space, usually a small cave or hollow log. The young open their eyes by the ninth or tenth day. They start exploring their surroundings at four weeks and are weaned at about two months. Within three to five months, they begin to travel with their mother. [52] They hunt by themselves by fall of their first year, and usually disperse shortly thereafter. [31] In Michigan, however, they have been observed staying with their mother as late as the next spring. [51]


Bobcat tracks in mud showing the hind-paw print (top) partially covering the fore-paw print (center) Bobcat tracks in mud.jpg
Bobcat tracks in mud showing the hind-paw print (top) partially covering the fore-paw print (center)

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. [53] 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). [54]

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). [55]


Skull showing large curved incisors Bobcat skull Pengo.jpg
Skull showing large curved incisors

The adult bobcat has relatively few predators other than humans. However seldomly, it may be killed in interspecific conflict by several larger predators or fall prey to them. Cougars and gray wolves can kill adult bobcats, a behavior repeatedly observed in Yellowstone National Park as well as elsewhere. [56] [57] Coyotes have killed adult bobcats and kittens. [58] [59] [60] At least one confirmed observation of a bobcat and an American black bear (Ursus americanus) fighting over a carcass is confirmed. [61] Like other Lynx species, bobcats probably avoid encounters with bears, in part because they are likely to lose kills to them or may be rarely be attacked by them. [62] [63] Bobcat remains have occasionally been found in the resting sites of male fishers. [64] American alligators (Alligator mississippensis) have been filmed opportunistically preying on adult bobcats in the southeast United States. [65] [66]

Bobcat defending a kill from a pair of coyotes Lynx rufus vs. Canis latrans.jpg
Bobcat defending a kill from a pair of coyotes

Kittens may be taken by several predators, including owls (almost entirely great horned owls), eagles, foxes, and bears, as well as other adult male bobcats; [67] when prey populations are not abundant, fewer kittens are likely to reach adulthood. Golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) have been reportedly observed preying on bobcats. [68]

Diseases, accidents, hunters, automobiles, and starvation are the other leading causes of death. Juveniles show high mortality shortly after leaving their mothers, while still perfecting their hunting techniques. One study of 15 bobcats showed yearly survival rates for both sexes averaged 0.62, in line with other research suggesting rates of 0.56 to 0.67. [69] Cannibalism has been reported; kittens may be taken when prey levels are low, but this is very rare and does not much influence the population. [37]

The bobcat may have external parasites, mostly ticks and fleas, and often carries the parasites of its prey, especially those of rabbits and squirrels. Internal parasites (endoparasites) are especially common in bobcats. [70] One study found an average infection rate of 52% from Toxoplasma gondii , but with great regional variation. [71] One mite in particular, Lynxacarus morlani , has to date been found only on the bobcat. Parasites' and diseases' role in the mortality of the bobcat is still unclear, but they may account for greater mortality than starvation, accidents, and predation. [37]

Distribution and habitat

Bobcat in urban surroundings: The species' range does not seem to be limited by human populations, as long as it can still find a suitable habitat. Bobcatonwires.jpg
Bobcat in urban surroundings: The species' range does not seem to be limited by human populations, as long as it can still find a suitable habitat.

The bobcat is an adaptable animal. It prefers woodlands—deciduous, coniferous, or mixed—but unlike the other Lynx species, it does not depend exclusively on the deep forest. It ranges from the humid swamps of Florida to desert lands of Texas or rugged mountain areas. It makes its home near agricultural areas, if rocky ledges, swamps, or forested tracts are present; its spotted coat serves as camouflage. [31] The population of the bobcat depends primarily on the population of its prey; other principal factors in the selection of habitat type include protection from severe weather, availability of resting and den sites, dense cover for hunting and escape, and freedom from disturbance. [10]

The bobcat's range does not seem to be limited by human populations, as long as it can find a suitable habitat; only large, intensively cultivated tracts are unsuitable for the species. [28] The animal may appear in back yards in "urban edge" environments, where human development intersects with natural habitats. [72] If chased by a dog, it usually climbs up a tree. [31]

The historical range of the bobcat was from southern Canada, throughout the United States, and as far south as the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and it still persists across much of this area. In the 20th century, it was thought to have lost territory in the US Midwest and parts of the Northeast, including southern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, and much of Missouri, mostly due to habitat changes from modern agricultural practices. [15] [28] [31] While thought to no longer exist in western New York and Pennsylvania, multiple confirmed sightings of bobcats (including dead specimens) have been recently reported in New York's Southern Tier and in central New York, and a bobcat was captured in 2018 on a tourist boat in Downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. [73] [74] In addition, bobcat sightings have been confirmed in northern Indiana, and one was recently killed near Albion, Michigan. [75] In early March, 2010, a bobcat was sighted (and later captured by animal control authorities) in a parking garage in downtown Houston. [76] By 2010, bobcats appear to have recolonized many states, occurring in every state except Delaware. [1]

Its population in Canada is limited due to both snow depth and the presence of the Canadian lynx. The bobcat does not tolerate deep snow, and waits out heavy storms in sheltered areas; [77] it lacks the large, padded feet of the Canadian lynx and cannot support its weight on snow as efficiently. The bobcat is not entirely at a disadvantage where its range meets that of the larger felid: displacement of the Canadian lynx by the aggressive bobcat has been observed where they interact in Nova Scotia, while the clearing of coniferous forests for agriculture has led to a northward retreat of the Canadian lynx's range to the advantage of the bobcat. [28] In northern and central Mexico, the cat is found in dry scrubland and forests of pine and oak; its range ends at the tropical southern portion of the country. [28]


The bobcat population has seen a decline in the American Midwest, but is generally stable and healthy. Rotluchs2.jpg
The bobcat population has seen a decline in the American Midwest, but is generally stable and healthy.

It is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), [78] which means it is not considered threatened with extinction, but hunting and trading must be closely monitored. The animal is regulated in all three of its range countries, and is found in a number of protected areas of the United States, its principal territory. [28] Estimates from the US Fish and Wildlife Service placed bobcat numbers between 700,000 and 1,500,000 in the US in 1988, with increased range and population density suggesting even greater numbers in subsequent years; for these reasons, the U.S. has petitioned CITES to remove the cat from Appendix II. [10] Populations in Canada and Mexico remain stable and healthy. It is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List, noting it is relatively widespread and abundant, but information from southern Mexico is poor. [1] The species is considered endangered in Ohio, Indiana, and New Jersey. It was removed from the threatened list of Illinois in 1999 and of Iowa in 2003. In Pennsylvania, limited hunting and trapping are once again allowed, after having been banned from 1970 to 1999. The bobcat also suffered population decline in New Jersey at the turn of the 19th century, mainly because of commercial and agricultural developments causing habitat fragmentation; by 1972, the bobcat was given full legal protection, and was listed as endangered in the state in 1991. [15] L. r. escuinipae, the subspecies found in Mexico, was for a time considered endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but was delisted in 2005. [79]

The bobcat has long been valued both for fur and sport; it has been hunted and trapped by humans, but has maintained a high population, even in the southern United States, where it is extensively hunted. In the 1970s and 1980s, an unprecedented rise in price for bobcat fur caused further interest in hunting, but by the early 1990s, prices had dropped significantly. [80] Regulated hunting still continues, with half of mortality of some populations being attributed to this cause. As a result, the rate of bobcat deaths is skewed in winter, when hunting season is generally open. [37]

Urbanization can result in the fragmentation of contiguous natural landscapes into patchy habitat within an urban area. Animals that live in these fragmented areas often have reduced movement between the habitat patches, which can lead to reduced gene flow and pathogen transmission between patches. Animals such as the bobcat are particularly sensitive to fragmentation because of their large home ranges. [81] A study in coastal Southern California has shown bobcat populations are affected by urbanization, creation of roads, and other developments. The populations may not be declining as much as predicted, but instead the connectivity of different populations is affected. This leads to a decrease in natural genetic diversity among bobcat populations. [82] For bobcats, preserving open space in sufficient quantities and quality is necessary for population viability. Educating local residents about the animals is critical, as well, for conservation in urban areas. [83]

In bobcats using urban habitats in California, the use of rodenticides has been linked to both secondary poisoning by consuming poisoned rats and mice, and to increased rates of severe mite infestation (known as notoedric mange), as an animal with a poison-weakened immune system is less capable of fighting off mange. Liver autopsies in California bobcats that have succumbed to notoedric mange have revealed chronic rodenticide exposure. [84] [85] Alternative rodent control measures such as vegetation control and use of traps have been suggested to alleviate this issue. [86]

Importance in human culture

In Native American mythology, the bobcat is often twinned with the figure of the coyote in a theme of duality. [87] Lynx and coyote are associated with the fog and wind, respectively—two elements representing opposites in Native American folklore. This basic story, in many variations, is found in the native cultures of North America (with parallels in South America), but they diverge in the telling. One version, which appears in the Nez Perce folklore for instance, depicts lynx and coyote as opposed, antithetical beings. [88] However, another version depicts them with equality and identicality. Claude Lévi-Strauss argues the former concept, that of twins representing opposites, is an inherent theme in New World mythologies, but they are not equally balanced figures, representing an open-ended dualism rather than the symmetric duality of Old World cultures. The latter notion then, Lévi-Strauss suggests, is the result of regular contact between Europeans and native cultures. Additionally, the version found in the Nez Perce story is of much greater complexity, while the version of equality seems to have lost the tale's original meaning. [89]

In a Shawnee tale, the bobcat is outwitted by a rabbit, which gives rise to its spots. After trapping the rabbit in a tree, the bobcat is persuaded to build a fire, only to have the embers scattered on its fur, leaving it singed with dark brown spots. [90] The Mohave believed dreaming habitually of beings or objects would afford them their characteristics as supernatural powers. Dreaming of two deities, cougar and lynx, they thought, would grant them the superior hunting skills of other tribes. [91] European settlers to the Americas also admired the cat, both for its ferocity and its grace, and in the United States, it "rests prominently in the anthology of ... national folklore." [92]

Grave artifacts from dirt domes excavated in the 1980s along the Illinois River revealed a complete skeleton of a young bobcat along with a collar made of bone pendants and shell beads that had been buried by the Hopewell culture. The type and place of burial indicate a tamed and cherished pet or possible spiritual significance. The Hopewell normally buried their dogs, so the bones were initially identified as remains of a puppy, but dogs were usually buried close to the village and not in the mounts themselves. This is the only wild cat decorated burial on the archaeological record. [93] [94]

See also

Related Research Articles

Coyote species of mammal

The coyote, prairie wolf or brush wolf, Canis latrans, is a canine native to North America. It is smaller than its close relative, the gray wolf, and slightly smaller than the closely related eastern wolf and red wolf. It fills much of the same ecological niche as the Eurasian golden jackal does in Eurasia, though it is larger and more predatory, and is sometimes called the American jackal by zoologists.

Jaguar species of mammal

The jaguar is a wild cat species and the only extant member of the genus Panthera native to the Americas. The jaguar's present range extends from Southwestern United States and Mexico in North America, across much of Central America, and south to Paraguay and northern Argentina in South America. Though there are single cats now living within the Western United States, the species has largely been extirpated from the United States since the early 20th century. It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List; and its numbers are declining. Threats include loss and fragmentation of habitat.

Lynx genus of mammals

A lynx is any of the four species within the medium-sized wild cat genus Lynx. The name lynx originated in Middle English via Latin from the Greek word λύγξ, derived from the Indo-European root leuk- in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes.

Red wolf subspecies of mammal

The red wolf is a canine native to the southeastern United States. The subspecies is the product of ancient genetic admixture between the gray wolf and the coyote, however it is regarded as unique and therefore worthy of conservation. Morphologically it is intermediate between the coyote and gray wolf, and is of a reddish, tawny color. The US Endangered Species Act of 1973 currently does not provide protection for endangered admixed individuals and researchers argue that these should warrant full protection under the Act. However, the red wolf when considered as a species is listed as an endangered species under this Act and is protected by law. Although Canis rufus is not listed in the CITES Appendices of endangered species, since 1996 the IUCN has listed it as a critically endangered species.

Wolverine Species of the family Mustelidae

The wolverine, Gulo gulo, also referred to as the glutton, carcajou, skunk bear, or quickhatch, is the largest land-dwelling species of the family Mustelidae. It is a stocky and muscular carnivore, more closely resembling a small bear than other mustelids. A solitary animal, it has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size, with the documented ability to kill prey many times larger than itself.

Cougar Large cat of the family Felidae native to the Americas

The cougar, also commonly known by other names including catamount, mountain lion, panther, and puma, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America, is the widest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in most American habitat types. It is the biggest cat in North America, and the second-heaviest cat in the New World after the jaguar. Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although daytime sightings do occur. The cougar is more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat, than to any species of subfamily Pantherinae, of which only the jaguar is native to the Americas.

Snowshoe hare species of mammal

The snowshoe hare, also called the varying hare, or snowshoe rabbit, is a species of hare found in North America. It has the name "snowshoe" because of the large size of its hind feet. The animal's feet prevent it from sinking into the snow when it hops and walks. Its feet also have fur on the soles to protect it from freezing temperatures.

Jungle cat Small wild cat

The jungle cat, also called reed cat and swamp cat, is a medium-sized cat native to the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and southern China. It inhabits foremost wetlands like swamps, littoral and riparian areas with dense vegetation. It is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, and is mainly threatened by destruction of wetlands, trapping and poisoning.

Black-footed cat Small wild cat

The black-footed cat, also called small-spotted cat, is the smallest African cat and endemic to the southwestern arid zone of Southern Africa. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2002, as the population is suspected to be declining due to bushmeat poaching of prey species, persecution, traffic accidents and predation by domestic animals.

Iberian lynx Small wild cat

The Iberian lynx is a wild cat species native to the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe that is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. It preys almost exclusively on the European rabbit. In the 20th century, the Iberian lynx population declined because of sharp declines in rabbit populations, caused by myxomatosis, rabbit haemorrhagic disease and overhunting, fragmentation of grassland and forest habitats and poaching.

Canada lynx Small wild cat

The Canada lynx is a lynx species native to North America. It ranges across Canada and Alaska extending into the Rocky Mountains and New Mexico. It has been listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List since 2002.

Western gray squirrel species of mammal

The western gray squirrel is an arboreal rodent found along the western coast of the United States and Mexico. It is a tree squirrel.

Swift fox species of mammal

The swift fox is a small light orange-tan fox around the size of a domestic cat found in the western grasslands of North America, such as Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. It also lives in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada, where it was previously extirpated. It is closely related to the kit fox and the two species are sometimes known as subspecies of Vulpes velox because hybrids of the two species occur naturally where their ranges overlap.

Fisher (animal) species of mammal

The fisher is a small, carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a member of the mustelid family, and is in the monospecific genus Pekania. The fisher is closely related to, but larger than, the American marten. The fisher is a forest-dwelling creature whose range covers much of the boreal forest in Canada to the northern United States. Names derived from aboriginal languages include pekan, pequam, wejack, and woolang. It is sometimes misleadingly referred to as a fisher cat, although it is not a cat.

American marten North American member of the family Mustelidae

The American marten or American pine marten is a North American member of the family Mustelidae, sometimes referred to as the pine marten. The name "pine marten" is derived from the common but distinct Eurasian species of Martes. It differs from the fisher in that it is smaller in size and lighter in colour.

American badger species of mammal

The American badger is a North American badger, somewhat similar in appearance to the European badger, although not closely related. It is found in the western and central United States, northern Mexico, and south-central Canada to certain areas of southwestern British Columbia.

Hispid cotton rat species of mammal

The hispid cotton rat is a rodent species long thought to occur in parts of South America, Central America, and southern North America. However, recent taxonomic revisions, based on mitochondrial DNA sequence data, have split this widely distributed species into three separate species. The southern edge of the S. hispidus distribution is likely near the Rio Grande, where it meets the northern distribution of S. toltecus. The northern extent of S. hispidus distribution is to the Platte River in Nebraska and from Arizona to Virginia. Adult size is total length 202–340 mm (7.9–13 in); tail 87–122 mm (3.4-4.8 in), frequently broken or stubbed; hind foot 29–35 mm (1-1.3 in); ear 16–20 mm (0.6-0.9 in); mass 50-250 g (1.7-9 oz). They have been used as laboratory animals.

The Mexican bobcat is a population of the bobcat in Mexico. The Mexican bobcat is most commonly found in the states of Sinaloa and Nayarit. As of 2017, it is uncertain whether or not this is a valid subspecies.


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Further reading