The bobcat at a glance
Bobcats are widely distributed throughout the United States. Approximately one million bobcats live in a variety of habitats, from dense forests, mountains, prairies, farmlands and even deserts. They are rarely seen in the wild because the species normally travels by walking, and their keen eyesight and hearing are always on the alert for possible danger. Very capable predators, bobcats hunt by stalking their prey.
Male bobcats are slightly larger and heavier than females. Most adult males weigh 20 to 22 pounds, while females average 18 to 19 pounds.
Individuals may be much larger at times, especially in the northern states where many mature males may weigh 30 pounds. The heaviest recorded bobcat was taken in Maine and weighed 76 pounds.
Bobcats have short tails of 5 to 6 inches in length. The underside of the tail is whitish, and there is a black spot near the end of the tail. Lynx can be confused with bobcats in northern areas, but the lynx tail is totally black, top and bottom, over the entire end of the tail.
Overall coloration is reddish, greyish or brownish on the backs, with lighter colored chins, throats and bellies.
Male bobcats do not breed as a rule until they are nearly two years old. Juvenile females are capable of breeding in their first year of life. Litter sizes are usually one to four, with three being the average litter.
Breeding normally takes place during February or March. Gestation is 62 to 70 days. Some female bobcats will raise two litters in a single year, and late born young often stay with the mother throughout the winter.
Bobcats are dependent upon rabbits in all areas. Bobcat population densities often follow the cyclic densities of these rodents. Most young bobcats are on their own by October, and significant mortalities occur when there are few rabbits for the young bobcats to prey upon.
Adult bobcats do prey upon deer, especially when rabbits are spare and the deer are most vulnerable during winter conditions of deep snow. A bobcat usually eats no more than two or three pounds of meat per day, and the deer carcass often serves as a food source for other species as well. Some bobcats in western areas do prey upon sheep, and a single bobcat has been known to kill dozens of lambs in one night.
A bobcat is considered to be old at 10 years of age.
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