San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide
Bobcat photo courtesy Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences

Lynx rufus

Family: Felidae


The bobcat is one of three native cats in the Pacific region of the United States, along with the mountain lion and the Canadian lynx (Ingles 1965). It has a small head, heavy body, long legs and large, padded paws. Its fur is pale brown to reddish with black spots. The underparts are white. The tip of the tail is black above and white below. The white underside of the tail serves as a signal for its kittens to follow when the bobcat holds the tail curved up when hunting for food.

The bobcat's sharp-pointed ears are tipped with dark, inconspicuous tufts. Compared to the Canadian lynx, the bobcat has shorter hindlimbs, smaller feet, and shorter ear tufts. Bobcats live 10-12 years in the wild, and up to 25 years in a zoo.

Size: It's a relatively small member of the cat family-the head and body measuring between 60-100 cm (24-40 inches) long, and the tail adding about another 20 cm (5 inches). Adult females weigh 6-9 kg (13-20 lbs) and adult males can weigh 9-13 kg (20-29 lbs).

Range and Habitat

The bobcat ranges from southern Canada to southern Mexico, and can be found throughout most of the United States. It inhabits a wide range of habitats, from rimrock and chaparral areas of the western United States to the swamps and forests the eastern United States. The bobcat dens in rock crevices, hollow logs, and thick brush.

Natural History

Behavior: Mostly nocturnal, the bobcat is a solitary animal. It ranges usually within a two mile radius, but may wander as far as 25 to 50 miles. Like the mountain lion, it mates briefly and the females raise the cubs alone. The cubs leave their mother within a year to live on their own.

Reproduction: Mating normally occurs in spring. After a gestation period of 50-60 days, the kittens are born. Litters usually contain two kittens, but may have as many as four. The kittens eyes open after 10-11 days.

Prey: Bobcats are carnivores, and eat primarily mammals: rabbits, woodrats, squirrels, and mice. Like many predators, however, they are opportunistic and will eat almost anything including birds, reptiles and amphibians. They can leap up to 10 feet to catch an animal.

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Text by Dr. Paisley Cato
Photo courtesy Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences

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