Common Name - Bobcat

Category - Mammals

ScientificName - Lynx rufus

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Carnivora

Family - Felidae

Genus - Lynx

Species - rufus


Description - Shape similar to domestic cat but about twice the size; yellowish-brown to reddish brown summer coat, gray to light brown winter coat; thick, short, soft fur; dark spots all over; white under belly hair; cheeks with longer tufts of hair, called ruffs; ears pointed and black on back side with distinctive white spot on each and small, black hair tuft at tips; short tail with black tip and white underside; claws that can be drawn into toes; four toes on hind feet; five toes on front feet but fifth toe does not show on track; walks on its toes (digitigrade); front feet larger than hind feet; black bars along insides of front legs; long, sharp canine teeth; jaw opens wider than domestic cat; males about one-third larger than females

Size - 25 – 35 in. (63.5 – 88.9 cm) long; 4.5 – 5 in. (11.43 – 12.7 cm) tail length; 13 – 37 lbs. (5.89 – 16.78 kg) weight 

Ecological Role - The bobcat is a top predator in its ecosystem and a keystone species in that its absence would significantly affect the balance of other populations in the food web of that ecosystem. It is also an opportunistic feeder that will prey on whatever is available including fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. Medium-sized mammals make up the most important part of the bobcat’s diet. More than one bobcat may hunt cooperatively. Older bobcats establish a home range or territory in which they hunt and reproduce. Predators of young bobcats include foxes, owls, coyotes, and sometimes adult male bobcats. The bobcat may be a host to parasitic roundworms and fleas.

Fun Facts - Bobcats have a very sharp sense of smell and hearing. They maintain a social structure by scratching on trees and urine scent markings left in their range. Bobcats sometimes store, or cache, food by loosely covering it for later. They hunt at night and are seldom seen by people. A bobcat range is often located by the droppings, or scat, they leave behind.

The bobcat is also called a wildcat. Blue, the official mascot of the University of Kentucky, can be viewed at the Salato Wildlife Education Center in Frankfort.

Food - Eastern cottontail rabbit, mice, shrews, birds such as grouse, opossum, muskrat, eastern fox squirrel, eastern gray squirrel, domestic pets, young white-tailed deer or weakened adult deer, snakes such as corn snake

Cover - Rock ledges, hollow logs, thickets, and stumps


Breeding - Spring, February through March; one male mates with several females; courtship is preferred around rock ledges and may involve chases, ambushes, and neck grips on female by male; makeshift nest of moss and leaves made in sheltered area such as rock crevice or hollow tree


Habitat - Mixed deciduous forests; mountainous regions; grasslands areas near rocky ledges, swamps, and forested tracts; abandoned agricultural areas

Kentucky Distribution - Statewide

Life Cycle

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes - Coat changes from reddish-brown in summer to grayish-brown in winter; weight varies from maximum weight in late spring, early summer to minimum weight in fall and winter; remains active throughout year


Status - Abundant / Secure in preferred habitat


Voice - Piercing scream when threatened; throaty howl during breeding season; other calls similar to a house cat, such as purr when tending young or growl and hiss when disturbed

Young - Born in 60 – 62 days in late spring; 1 litter of 2 – 4 kittens per year; weigh less than 1 pound (0.45 kg); born with eyes closed, open in about 10 days; begin exploring at 4 weeks; weaned from mother’s milk at 8 – 9 weeks; move away from mother during first fall; females able to reproduce after 1 year, males after 2 years; live 2 – 10 years 

What We Can Do - Maintain a variety of different successional stage vegetation that allows for easy foraging and resting sites, such as cliff lines, riparian areas and wooded areas. Harvesting small patches of timber improve small mammal numbers, which in turn will enhance the existing bobcat population. Obey hunting and trapping laws. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources regulates the hunting and trapping of bobcats in Kentucky.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

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