The Bob Cat — Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

The Bob Cat

Three Two One … Bobcats Caught On Camera 


Click the link below for a 96 second video of the actual shoot on the day of the ”3-cat-Shoot:  

The Bob Cat : Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute 


Physical Description  

The bobcat’s fur is buff to brown, sometimes with a reddish tinge, and marked with spots or stripes of brown and black. The fur on its undersides is lighter in color. Bobcats have facial ruffs, ear tufts, white spots near the tips of their ears and bobbed tails. 

Bobcats are often confused with the other three “lynx” species, the Canadian lynx, Iberian lynx and Eurasian lynx. Each lynx has characteristic facial ruffs and ear tufts, and a shorter tail than other cats. Bobcats are slightly smaller than other lynx and live in warmer climates at lower latitudes. The other lynx species occupy cold, northern latitudes where snow lies deep for much of the year and temperatures can reach lows of -70 degrees Fahrenheit (-57 degrees Celsius). Their footpads are well protected with a dense covering of fur, while the bobcat’s footpads are bare. They also have shorter tails and longer legs for traveling through deep snow, where the bobcat is at a disadvantage. 

The bobcat’s black-spotted, brown coat blends in well with the rocks, brush and other dense vegetation where it hunts its main prey: the cottontail rabbit. Other lynx species have plain, brown-gray coats that provide camouflage in the mossy coniferous forests and swamps where they stalk their primary prey: the snowshoe hare. The dense cover where these lynx live may make sound more important than sight while hunting. Their ear tufts are thought to improve hearing and are longer than those of the bobcat. 

The backs of a bobcat’s ears are marked with two white spots, which a female’s kittens probably follow in dim light. Another useful adaptation is the white underside of the bobcat’s bobbed tail. If kittens fall too far behind their mother, the mother stops and softly calls to them while raising her tail to reveal the white patch below. 


Bobcats vary in size along their continental range, with larger animals found in the north and smaller animals in the south. They are generally 1.5-2 feet (46-64 centimeters) tall at the shoulder and weigh between 9 and 33 pounds (4 and 15 kilograms). 

Native Habitat  

The majority of the world’s bobcats are found in the United States, but they range from Mexico to southern Canada. Bobcats are very adaptable and can live in a wide variety of habitats, including boreal coniferous and mixed forests in the north, bottomland hardwood forests and coastal swamps in the southeast, and desert and scrublands in the southwest. 


Bobcats communicate through scent, visual signals and vocalizations. The scent mark by urinating along travel routes, depositing feces in latrine sites and scraping urine and feces along trails. These marks can also indicate that a specific den is being used by a female and her kittens, signal that a female is receptive to mating, or delineate a home range. 

They use body postures and facial expressions as close-range signals to warn off intruders. Bobcats rarely mew like domestic cats but will chortle and make birdlike chirps. During mating season, their vocalizations resemble that of a screaming domestic alley cat. North American bobcats primarily use scent marking and visual signals to mark their territory. They rarely use sound to deter other bobcats and instead rely on urine, feces and anal gland secretions, as well as marking scrapes in the ground. 

Food/Eating Habits  

Bobcats mostly eat rabbits and hares. They may also eat rodents, such as squirrels and mice, or hunt small deer, snakes, lizards and domestic animals, such as dogs, cats, sheep, goats and poultry. They can even leap high enough to catch low-flying birds. 

Bobcats are excellent climbers and can run up to 30 miles per hour (48 kilometers per hour). They stalk their prey with unparalleled patience, and often travel 2 to 7 miles (3 to 11 kilometers) in an evening while hunting and patrolling their territory. They will place their back feet in the same spots where their front feet have stepped to reduce noise when hunting. 

At the Zoo, bobcats eat a prepared meat diet, mice, rats, chicks and bones. 

Social Structure  

Bobcats are solitary and territorial animals. The home range of a male bobcat overlaps that of several females, and males will mate with more than one female. Bobcats have a sophisticated form of land tenure and usually respect each other’s territory. They mark their specific territories to minimize confrontations with other bobcats. 


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