The Bobcat (Lynx rufus) is widely distributed throughout North America. This feline is named for its apparently stubbed or stunted tail, but in reality, bobcat tails have been measured at well over a foot long. This belief that bobcats do not have tails often leads to mistaken cougar sightings. With growth up to 30 pounds, similar coloring and being members of the same family - it can be easy to confuse the two. In addition to confusing the physical appearance of the cougar and bobcat, the animals' tracks are also not a concrete form of identification.
Bobcats will leave tracks similar to those of cougars, the only main difference being the size of the track. Adult cougar tracks easily exceed 3" wide and 3" long, whereas bobcats tracks can be 1.5" high by 2" wide. A common example would be an apparent bobcat track that could also be a juvenile cougar track. How do you tell the difference? If you see what appears to be a bobcat track, look around to see if you notice any larger tracks. As cougars tend to travel with their young, you might see two distinct sets of feline tracks indicating a cougar with its young. If you see a single set of smaller feline tracks, it's likely a bobcat.
Physically, the bobcat varies in color. With a black-spotted short haired coat, its hue ranges from tan to light brown to rust.
The belly is whitish-yellowish and also contains black spots. Weighing between 20 - 30 pounds, the length of a bobcat (including tail) can reach 3'. Bobcats are natural hunters. Equipped with retractable razor sharp claws, bobcats are excellent climbers and are known to pounce on prey from tree branches.
Diet primarily consists of small mammals such as mice, rabbits and squirrels but also includes birds, lizards, insects and berries. With brilliant vision and a nocturnal nature, the bobcat hunts at night. They are stealth predators whose wide padded feet move silently through thick brush. They will stalk their prey using very little energy and when certain of a kill, the bobcat will pounce. This technique makes the bobcat one of nature's most efficient hunters.
A female bobcat reaches sexual maturity after her first birthday. While breeding dates vary slightly be geographic region, it often occurs early in the year - during January and February. After a 60 day average gestation period, one to four kittens will be born. Blind and vulnerable for the first 8 - 10 days of their life, the kittens will be fully weaned after two months and will stay with their mother through the fall.
The mother takes great care of her kittens during this period, teaching them to hunt and survive. Once away from its mother, the bobcat is on its own and can take on a territory of up to 50 square miles.