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Bobcat

Felis rufus

Written by Dan Bryant, Colleen Olfenbuttel, Black bear and furbearer biologist–NCWRC, David Sawyer, and Perry Sumner.
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, 2009.
Creative Commons, Attribution, No derivative works

Classification

Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora

Average Size

Length: 24-40 in. including tail
Weight (N.C.): 10-30 lbs. with males about
one third larger than females.

Food

Rabbits, many different species of birds, cotton rats, white-tailed deer, rodents, gray squirrels, raccoons, opossums and snakes. Bobcats will also occasionally take farm animals.

Breeding

Sexually mature in 1-2 years. Mating usually takes place in late winter or early spring, but bobcats can mate any time during the year.

Young

Called kittens. Gestation period about 62 days. Average litter size is 2-4 kittens. Weight at birth is from 10-12 ounces. Bobcats normally produce one litter a year, but two are possible. Kittens are furred, but blind at birth. Their eyes open in 3-10 days, and by 4 weeks they begin to explore the area around the den. They are weaned by 7-8 weeks of age.

Life Expectancy

Average 3-4 years for males and 4-5 years for females. Few live longer than 10 years.

Range and Distribution

Bobcats are territorial and have large home ranges, depending on habitat quality and the bobcat’s sex and age. Home ranges may cover a half mile to 30 square miles with male ranges being two to five times larger than female ranges.

In North Carolina, the bobcat can be found in all regions of the state.

General Information

Early settlers were fascinated with the bobcat (sometimes called wildcat) and especially with its elusive, solitary and wily habits. Settlers called the bobcat “ol’ spitfire,” “lightning” and “woods ghost,” among other names. Some even believed various parts of its body possessed special healing powers.

These and other superstitions circulated by the early settlers in America were born out of inspiration, fear and awe of the bobcat. The bobcat’s secretive nature, its cunning and its toughness continue to fascinate people today.

History and Status

Throughout the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries, bobcats were thought to be a threat to livestock and game animals. During that period bounties were widespread in the United States and bobcat pelts were worth little in the fur industry. During the 1970s, when large spotted cats became protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act and The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the value of bobcat pelts dramatically increased.

Bobcats are currently managed by state wildlife departments and the export of their pelts out of the country is monitored and controlled by the federal government. Bobcat populations in both the United States and North Carolina, with the exception of heavily farmed and densely populated areas, appear to be stable to increasing.

Description

The bobcat gets its name from its short tail (about 5 inches long) that is dark above and white below, coloring that may serve a signaling function. The bobcat’s fur is short, dense and soft and is light brown to reddish brown on the back. The underside and insides of the legs are white with dark spots or bars. The fur down the middle of the back may be darker, and bobcats may be grayer in th e winter than at other times of the year. Adult bobcats are about two times as large as a domestic cat, standing 20 inches to 30 inches at the shoulder.
Adult weights range from 10 to 40 pounds, with males being about one third larger than females.

Habitat and Habits

Although bobcats are found in a wide range of habitats in North Carolina, wooded habitats of the Coastal Plain and mountains support the largest numbers. Bottomland hardwoods, young pine stands, swamps and pocosins provide good bobcat habitation in eastern North Carolina. In the mountains, mature forests with openings or early successional forests nearby are favored. Hollow trees, rock piles, brush piles, root masses of uprooted trees or similar sites are common bobcat dens.

The bobcat is a carnivore that favors early successional prey such as rabbits and mice. Bobcats are excellent runners and climbers and are also very adept at swimming. Their paws have four toes apiece, each with retractable claws that are razor sharp. They also have long, sharp canine teeth adapted for seizing prey. In addition to these hunting tools, the bobcat has excellent vision and hearing and also a very good sense of smell. The thin pupil in the bobcat’s eye expands and becomes large and round in darkness, an advantage for a night hunting species. Tufts of hair that extend beyond the ears may assist the animal in pinpointing the faint sounds of small prey. Bobcats are active year-round and can be active day or night, but tend to exhibit crepuscular (dawn and dusk) activity. Other animals they eat include rabbits, rodents,squirrels, opossums, birds, snakes and deer. Bobcats are solitary except during the breeding season, which usually occurs during February or March. Two to four kittens are born in May.

People Interactions

Bobcats are very adaptable and will use a wide variety of habitats, enabling them to live close to people. However, due to their secretive behaviors, they often go undetected. The bobcat is the only wild cat found in North Carolina. Because the bobcat population is abundant, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) authorizes a sustainable hunting and trapping season in all regions of the state. Despite declining fur prices, the pelt of a bobcat is still highly valued since the bobcat is a highly valuable natural resource in North Carolina.

NCWRC Interaction: How You Can Help

Bobcat populations, like other wildlife populations in North Carolina, have rebounded over the past 50 years, thanks to habitat restoration and the implementation of hunting and trapping regulations. Bobcat populations continue to increase and bobcats are now distributed throughout the state. While the bobcat prefers woodlands, it can live in variety of habitats. Its main limitation is the availability of den sites and escape cover, as well as abundance of prey populations. Landowners can maintain or create habitat for bobcats by managing their land for small game populations, such as rabbits and squirrels, and maintaining brush piles, which can serve as escape cover and den sites for bobcats and their young.

Bobcats rarely cause conflicts with people or their activities, though they infrequently kill domestic livestock, such as poultry, sheep or goats, and attack domestic cats. While bobcats may appear in close proximity to development, they are generally wary of people and often run away when detected by people. Their presence alone in a neighborhood is not a cause for concern. In fact, due to their elusive nature, it is a rarity to see a bobcat. If you see a bobcat, consider yourself among the privileged few to see North Carolina’s only wild cat.

References

Lee, David, J. Funderburg, and Mary K. Clark. A Distributional Survey of North Carolina Mammals (N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, 1982).
Van Wormer, Joe. The World of the Bobcat (J.B. Lippincott Co., 1963).
Webster, William David, James F. Parnell and Walter C. Biggs Jr. Mammals of the Carolinas, Virginia and Maryland (The University of North Carolina Press, 1985).
Young, Stanley Paul. The Bobcat of North America (The Stackpole Company, 1958).

Credits

Written by Dan Bryant, Colleen Olfenbuttel, Black bear and furbearer biologist–NCWRC, David Sawyer, and Perry Sumner.
Produced by the Division of Conservation Education, Cay Cross–Editor.
Illustrated by J.T. Newman. Photos by Steve Maslowski.
The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and all wildlife programs are administered for the benefit of all North Carolina citizens without prejudice toward age, sex, race, religion or national origin. Violations of this pledge may be reported to the Equal Employment Officer, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, 1751 Varsity Dr.,
Raleigh, N.C. 27606. (919) 707-0101.

Profile courtesy of NC WINS (NC Wildlife Information Network Share)
 

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Comments

Comment: 

Let's do the chubby bunny challenge! Are they in chapel hill and California? My cat died from either a coyote or a bobcat! Wah wah waaaahhh!

Comment: 

Hello --

Thanks for visiting NCpedia and asking your question about bobcats.  And we're sorry to hear about your cat.

Here is a link to the distribution of bobcats across the state with maps from 1955 to 2005. http://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Trapping/Documents/Furbearer_Species_Maps/Bobcat_distribution_map.pdf

 This resource comes from the NC Wildlife Resources Commission.  According to the map, in 1955, bobcats were seen primarily in the mountains and in the coastal plain.  Today, they are distributed across the entire state, although according to Wildlife Resources Commission, the highest concentrations are still in the mountains and coastal plain where the habitats are best for supporting the species. Still, you could see one in Chapel Hill, in theory!

I hope this information helps!

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

DIMP!!!! Cheezepuffz!!!!!

Comment: 

Yo da best! Can I have some? Also, do you think bobcats are a major threat to our animals that can protect themselves?

Comment: 

Fuzzy fluffy kitten baby!!!!!!!! I want to hug it soooooo much!!!!!!!! Cats are soooooo cute and cuddle fuzzy!!!!!!!!!!!!

Comment: 

Think I saw one yesterday but it was much darker than pictures show. Its ears were very dark - reminded me of a Maine Coon cat except fur appeared short and I did not notice its tail (because there was none?) It had prey in its mouth. It was in the driveway (heavily wooded) struggling with something, then turned and ran up thru the trees but stopped while still in the clear (that's when I saw the prey- obviously dead) & just looked at me. Pretty exciting!

Comment: 

I jusk got a kitten,had it in a carrier got up and to my surprized both gone. Think it was a bobcat buy the claw prints.Just a week brfore that my other cat was ripped open drad off the porch could have been a dog as well. have'nt found the cage yet. have seen bob cats around, sometime they run, one other time only about 45 feet from me and my husband we was taking a walk, it just stop walk and stood there looking at us. we walked on by it,it was calm.

Comment: 

We think we saw a bobcat in back of our house this morning. Not sure about the tail length, but he, or she, definitely fit the rest of the description. It is wooded behind our house, and many neighbours have bird feeders. It was really amazing!

Comment: 

As I entered my driveway tonight, 12/25/12, a bobcat darted in front of my pickup. The sighting was brief but the pointed ears and short bobbed tail were very distinctive. He sprinted into the woods next to my driveway. I have to admit realizing that I had just seen my first bobcat the hair stood up on the back of my neck and it gave me a cold chill. After reading what the bobcat eats I am now worried that "it" might attack my pygmy goats. If this happens I'll have to use all measures to protect my goats. Now if I can only convince Mr. or Miss Bobcat to thin the squirrel population down and leave the goats alone.

Comment: 

l.This bobcat is cute.

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