The bobcat is a tawny color often with a reddish tone, with black spotting that is not real distinct.In winter their color is more grayish.They have a “bobbed” tail that is short and has 2 or 3 black bars with a black tip above, but it is whitish underneath.The lynx tail is black on both sides.Their face often has thin, black lines, that lead into cheek ruffs.The cheek ruffs do not extend into the beardlike extensions of the lynx.Their ears are slightly tufted, but less so than the lynx.Their weight varies from 14to 68 pounds (6.4-31 kg), males are generally larger than females.Total body length is about 28 to nearly 50 inches (710-1250 mm), tail length is about 4 to 7 inches (100-170 mm).
They are generally found from southern Canada across the U. S. south to Mexico.Their populations are isolated and only found in suitable habitat through the Midwest and eastern part of the U. S.They are more abundant and widespread throughout the Rocky Mountain states and to the west coast.
Found in various habitats, including deciduous-coniferous woodlands and forest edges, swamps, brushlands, and areas with thick undergrowth. In Idaho, found from deserts to rocky mountains near timberline.
Prefers small mammals, especially lagomorphs, but will occasionally eat birds, other invertebrates, and carrion. West-central Idaho study reported voles were primary winter prey. Southeastern Idaho studies found bobcats preyed primarily on jackrabbits, but switched to small mammals when rabbit numbers declined. They have been known to prey on larger mammals such as small pronghorns or deer, but only occasionally.
Mainly nocturnal/crepuscular, but sometimes diurnal in winter. When inactive, occupies rocky cleft, cave, hollow log, space under fallen tree, etc.; usually changes shelter daily. Home range is generally less than 100 km2 (often much less); male's range is greater than female's. West-central Idaho study found summer home range was approximately 4 times larger than winter home range. population density is 1/3.9 km2 in southern range, to 1/12.9 km2 in north (Idaho study reported density of 1/23.3-29.0 km2). Individuals are solitary except when breeding. Southeastern Idaho study found bobcat numbers declined as rabbit numbers declined due to fewer females raising litters. Home ranges also increased.
Breeds mid-winter through spring (possibly any time of year in some areas). Female produces 1 litter of 1-7 young (average 2.8 in southeastern Idaho), except in southern range, where second litter may be born in early August. Gestation lasts 50-60 days. Both parents feed young while kits are in den. Young are weaned at about 2 mo, stay with mother until early fall, and first breed usually at 1-2 yr.
Important State References:
Knick, S.T. 1990. Ecology of bobcats relative to exploitation and a prey decline in southeastern Idaho. Wildl. Monog. 108:1-42.