All about the Bobcat

All about the Lynx rufus

The Bobcat or known as the Lynx rufus, 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 the 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.

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 may also consume birds, cotton rats, white-tailed deer, rodents, gray squirrels, raccoons, opossums and snakes. Lynx Rufus are active year-round and can be active day or night, but tend to exhibit crepuscular (dawn and dusk) activity. Bobcats are solitary except during the breeding season, which usually occurs during February or March.

Why the Lynx Rufus is Endanger

Bobcats are legally harvested for the fur trade in 38 US states, and in seven Canadian provinces. In Mexico, the Bobcat is legally hunted in small numbers as a trophy animal. There appears to be little illegal international trade, although within the US, molecular forensics techniques have determined that skins reported as originating from an area with a high bag limit were probably illegally taken from an area with a lower limit.

The Bobcat is now the leading wild cat species in the skin trade, with most exports coming from the US. In 2000-2006 the average annual export of skins was 29,772, with an all-time high of 51,419 skins exported in 2006.Demand for Bobcat pelts is being driven by Asian countries with growing economies. Although this harvest seems likely to continue, it is regulated. The far more serious threat to these cats is the continuing habitat fragmentation, loss of habitat, and persecution by farmers and ranchers.

A California study (2012) found the primary source of mortality in Bobcats was notoedric mange, or feline scabies. Researchers discovered a direct link from the infected cats to anticoagulant rat poisons. Eating of the poisoned rodents resulted in 51% of collared Bobcats dying during the study. Other carnivores such as Cougar Puma concolor were equally affected. On a regional level, the Bobcat is totally protected in ten USA states; in Canada hunting and trade is regulated; and in Mexico hunting is regulated in five states and shooting of suspected livestock predators is permitted. The degree to which these little cats have been studied and managed in North America makes them probably the most thoroughly examined species in international trade today.

What you can do

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