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Bobcat

Lynx rufus

Bobcats get their name from their short, bobbed tails. (Don DeBold/Wikimedia Commons)
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Bobcats get their name from their short, bobbed tails. (Don DeBold/Wikimedia Commons)

The bobcat is a wild cat that is brownish with dark spots and stripes. It lives mostly in forested and mountainous areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance:

  • Mottled reddish- or grayish-brown with dark spots and stripes
  • Short tufts on the ears
  • Short tail (5-6 inches long) with a black tip
  • Ruffs of hair that look like sideburns on the sides of the head
  • Grows to 25-40 inches long and weighs 25-35 pounds

Habitat:

  • Lives mostly in forested and mountainous areas but may also be found around swamps and farmland
  • Avoids highly developed areas or areas with dense human populations
  • Solitary
  • Mostly nocturnal, remaining hidden during the day

Range:

  • Recorded mostly in the northern and western portions of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but likely ranges into other areas
  • Each individual has a home range that can extend 5-50 square miles, depending on how much food is available
  • Very territorial, marking its home range with urine and feces
  • A female’s home range rarely overlaps with other females’ home ranges, while a male’s territory may overlap with other females’ ranges

Feeding:

  • Eats nearly any bird, mammal, reptile or other small animal available
  • Mice, hares, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and small white-tailed deer are all common prey
  • Uses its excellent hearing and vision to hunt during dusk and after nightfall

Predators:

  • Foxes, coyotes and large owls prey upon bobcat kittens
  • Humans are the only major threat to adult bobcats

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Usually mates between January-March. This is the only time males and females interact. After mating, they return to their separate territories.
  • About 65 days after mating, females give birth to a litter of 2-6 kittens that she usually cares for by herself in a secluded den
  • Kittens venture from the den after about 5 weeks
  • By 9 months old, kittens begin to establish their own territories, although they may remain near their mother until the following spring
  • Females reach sexual maturity after one year, while males mature after 2 years
  • Can live as long as 15 years in the wild

Other Facts:

  • Also known as the red lynx or the bay lynx
  • The most widely distributed native cat in North America
  • Gets its name from its short bobbed tail

Sources and Additional Information:

Places:




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