Bobcat Facts

Bobcat, Lynx rufus(sometimes Felis rufus)

Common Names:bobcat

Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Species: Lynx rufus

General DescriptionThe bobcat is a small member of the wildcat family. Bobcats weigh anywhere from 5-15 kg, and have a body length between 65-105 cm, depending on sex and climate. Interestingly, Sikes and Kennedy (1992) found that male body size was more closely correlated to environmental factors than females. Bobcats generally appear brown, and may display different combinations of the colour. The backs of a bobcat’s ears are black, as is the tip of its tail. The shortness of the animal’s tail yields its name (a “bob”-like tail). A tuft of hair on the bobcat’s cheek are also distinguishable, as is a dark, projecting tuft on the tops of its ears. Bobcats mark their home range with urine, feces, and anal gland secretions, and are very territorial.

Geographical Distribution and Habitat RequirementsExists as far north as southern Canada, and as far south as southern Mexico, and is found throughout the US. Its status in New Brunswick is uncertain, but probably does not inhabit the far north of province. It is believed that snow depth may play a role in limiting bobcats from northern areas. Bobcats are known to inhabit a great variety of habitats, including forests, brushland, mountains, swamps, semi-deserts. They do require a hidden den, which may be kept in a hollow log, in a thicket, or especially, on a rocky ledge or overhang. Lovallo and Anderson (1996) found that bobcats shift their habitat seasonally: in winter, bobcats in Wisconsin tended to spend more time in lowland conifer stands, and less time in unforested areas than in the summer.

General Biology Bobcats are opportunistic carnivores, and will eat almost anything, including rodents, ground birds, small mammals, deer, rabbits and hares (especially the snowshoe hare), and occasionally, domesticated animals. Bobcats may also scavenge the remains of previously killed animals. A bobcat’s diet changes little seasonally, however larger animals tend to eat more deer and less small mammals and rodents (Matlack and Evans, 1992). Bobcats are crepuscular: activity increases at dawn and dusk. A litter of about 2-3 kittens are born in the spring, and do not leave the care of their mother until the fall (around 8 months). Bobcats are usually solitary: males and females interact almost exclusively during the breeding season (early spring), and one male usually mates with several females. Bobcats have a home range from 1-5 km in size. Home ranges of females do not overlap, while males may have overlapping home ranges with other males, or more commonly, with several females (Lovallo and Anderson, 1996). Female home ranges tend to be smaller than male home ranges, and home ranges for both males and females tend to be smaller during the winter. Bobcats have a lifespan of 3-10 years. Bobcats do not enter torpor or hibernate during the winter.

Conservation Lynx rufus is rarely seen in New Brunswick, but is more common in other parts of the continent. It is currently listed in Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species). Appendix II includes species which are not momentarily threatened with extinction, but which may become so unless trade is closely regulated. It is not listed in IUCN. The population is stable in some parts of North America, while it is endangered in others. Bobcats are found almost everywhere in North America, except regions of high population density or large chunks of agricultural land (i.e. Midwest or Atlantic coast- NJ, Delaware, Mass., NY). It has expanded its range northward over last decades, in part due to the clearing of forested areas for agriculture or logging.

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