The bobcat (Felis rufus) is the
smallest member of the lynx family. They are the most common native
cat in North America and can be found in almost all types of habitat
-- except metropolitan areas -- especially in mountains and desert
areas where water is available.
No one is quite sure where the name
“bobcat” came from, but it may have originated from the animal's short tail,
which is only 6 or 7 inches long and looks like it has been "bobbed." Or it may have come from the
bobcat’s unique high-tailed, bobbing gait that is the result of
having back legs which are longer than its front legs.
The bobcat is about twice the size of a housecat, weighing from 15
to 30 pounds. The bobcat has two color changes per year. The fur of
the adult bobcat is striped, blotchy, and dense; tawny gray for the winter
and reddish brown for the summer. Baby bobcats have spotted fur
that disappears as they get older. Bobcats are rarely seen because
their spotted and striped coat aids in camouflage in a wide range of
environments. They also have a shy disposition.
Despite its kitty-like appearance, the bobcat is quite fierce. Some
people call them the spitfires of the animal kingdom because they
seem fearless and won't back down from a fight! The bobcat's growls
and snarls are so deep and fearsome, particularly when hidden from
view, that one gets the misimpression it must be a mountain lion.
Bobcats are ambush hunters, preferring to hide and wait for their
prey. They like ledges, from where they can jump down on prey, and
thickets where they can use their camouflage ability. They are
“short distance runners” and will seldom chase a potential meal for
more than 200 or 250 feet.
The bobcat's excellent vision and
hearing allow it to hunt actively in the dark. Its pupils can dilate
unusually wide, and special reflective retinal cells collect all
available light. The tuft hairs on the ear tips serve as antennae,
increasing the animal’s ability to hear the slightest sound. During
the day the bobcat remains hidden and is rarely glimpsed. Its
favorite prey are rabbit and hare, chipmunk, ground squirrel, birds,
mice, rats, and lizards and the occasional small deer. The bobcat
will commonly switch prey species when its preferred source of food
is unavailable. Bobcats can only eat about three pounds of meat at a
time, so they often cache their food for later until the meat rots.
They rarely eat carrion.
Bobcats have large feet with retractable
claws. The soft pads on their feet help them to sneak up on an
animal quietly. Bobcats can run at up to 30 miles per hour, but they
would rather walk. They put their back feet in the same spots where
their front feet stepped. That way, they don’t make so much noise by
snapping extra twigs under their feet. They are good climbers and
can escape up a tree if needed, but they'd rather spend their time
on the ground. Bobcats will swim if they need to, but it's not their