The bobcat gets its name from its short “bobbed” tail. A bobcat’s tail is about 4 inches (11 cm) long.
Bobcats live in North America. They can be found from southern Canada to southern Mexico. There are more bobcats in North America than any other native cat species; biologists estimate there are more than one million bobcats. The secret to the bobcats’ success is their adaptability. Bobcats can survive in mixed woodlands, conifer forests, mountains, scrublands, semi-deserts, and swamps. They can live in suburban and urban areas as well.
Bobcats grow from 26 to 43 inches (65-110 cm) long and weigh about 9 to 34 pounds (4-15.5 kg). The bobcat’s tail is about 4 inches (11 cm) long. Bobcats are tawny in color with brown or black spots or stripes sometimes across their coat and sometimes only on the underside. The bobcats’ markings allow them to blend in with their surroundings. The tip of a bobcat’s ears and tail are black. They have hairy tufts on their ears, and sideburn-like tufts on the side of the head, which extend from the base of the ears to the jowl.
Bobcats are good climbers but they spend most of their time on the ground. They use their exceptional vision, hearing, and sense of smell to locate prey. Bobcats hunt mainly rabbits and hares but can survive on rodents, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, small deer, and carrion. Bobcats hunt mainly at dawn and dusk most of the year. They hunt more often during the day in winter when food is scarce. Bobcats spend most of their days resting in dens hidden in thickets, hollow trees, or rocky crevices.
Bobcats defend a territory just large enough for their food needs. Each bobcat marks its territory with urine, feces, and oils secreted from an anal gland. A male will control a large territory that overlaps the smaller territories of several females. But males only interact with females during the mating season from mid-winter to early spring. Female bobcats give birth to litters of usually three cubs after a two-month gestation. The cubs remain with their mother for about eight months before venturing out on their own. During the mating season, the commonly quiet bobcat will vocalize with yowls and hisses.
The average lifespan of a bobcat in the wild is 3 to 10 years. The scientific name for the bobcat is Lynx rufus.