Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for




Date of this Version

September 1994


The bobcat (Lynx rufus), alias “wildcat,” is a medium-sized member of the North American cat family. It can be distinguished at a distance by its graceful catlike movements, short “bobbed” tail, and round face and pointed ears. Visible at close distances are black hair at the tip of the tail and prominent white dots on the upper side of the ears. Body hair color varies, but the animal’s sides and flanks are usually brownish black or reddish brown with either distinct or faint black spots. The back is commonly brownish yellow with a dark line down the middle. The chest and outside of the legs are covered with brownish to light gray fur with black spots or bars. Bobcats living at high elevations and in northern states and Canada have relatively long hair. In southern states, bobcats may have a yellowish or reddish cast on their backs and necks. The bobcat occurs in a wide variety of habitats from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean and from Mexico to northern British Columbia. It occurs in the 48 contiguous states. The bobcat is as adapted to subtropical forests as it is to dense shrub and hardwood cover in temperate climates. Other habitats include chaparral, wooded streams, river bottoms, canyonlands, and coniferous forests. Bobcats prefer areas where these native habitat types are interspersed with agriculture and escape cover (rocky outcrops) close by. The bobcat has thrived where agriculture is interspersed through the above native habitat types, as in southern Canada. Bobcats are capable of hunting and killing prey that range from the size of a mouse to that of a deer. Rabbits, tree squirrels, ground squirrels, woodrats, porcupines, pocket gophers, and ground hogs comprise most of their diet. Opossums, raccoon, grouse, wild turkey, and other ground-nesting birds are also eaten. Occasionally, insects and reptiles can be part of the bobcat’s diet. Bobcats are secretive, shy, solitary, and seldom seen in the wild. They are active during the day but prefer twilight, dawn, or night hours. Bobcats tend to travel well-worn animal trails,logging roads, and other paths. They use their acute vision and hearing for locating enemies and prey.