The bobcat is North America’s most common wildcat and is named because of its short, bobbed tail. It is a medium-sized cat, slightly smaller, though similar in appearance to the lynx, its cousin. Its coat color ranges from shades of brown or beige, with spots or lines of markings in black or dark brown. Males are usually larger than females, and size also varies significantly with their geographic location, with bobcats from the north typically being larger than the ones in the south.
The bobcat has a wide range, from British Columbia, eastwards through southern Canada to Nova Scotia, and southwards through most of the US to central Mexico. The bobcat is reported as inhabiting every US state except Delaware. They can be found in a range of habitats, including semi-deserts, forests, mountains, and brushland.
The bobcat is a nocturnal and solitary animal, most active under cover of night and tending to do most of its hunting during dawn and dusk. In the daytime, bobcats rest and sleep in a den which could be a hollow tree or a rock crevice, with one individual using a number of dens in its home range. These cats are highly territorial and will mark their range with scent and make distinctive claw markings on trees to let others know of their presence. The males have a large range, which will often overlap several smaller female territories, though cats will not interact with each other until the breeding season in the winter. During the rest of the year, bobcats avoid each another to minimize the risk of being injured during a fight. The bobcat hardly ever vocalizes, although it often yowls and hisses during the mating season.
Bobcats living in the north mainly eat snowshoe hares, while those living in the south will mainly eat cottontail rabbits. They also eat rodents, birds and bats. The male bobcats hunt deer and other larger prey when food is scarce.
Bobcats have a polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system. They associate with each other only for the brief period necessary for courtship and copulation, both males and females having multiple partners. The breeding season is during February and March. Gestation lasts 60 to 70 days, and a litter of around 3 kittens is produced. The kittens open their eyes at 10 days old, and nurse for two months. Females bring meat to their offspring, and, once weaned, they teach them about hunting. Males do not help in raising the kittens. The young disperse during the winter, at about 8 months of age. Females are sexually mature at one year old, males in their second year
The major threat to bobcats throughout the US is being hunted for their soft fur, in some areas to near extinction. Where bobcats now must share their natural habitat with increasing numbers of people, they are also hunted by farmers to protect their livestock. Despite being very adaptable animals, they are also threatened by habitat loss when populations are pushed into smaller and more dispersed areas of their once huge natural range.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total bobcat population size is 725,000 - 1 million individuals. This species numbers are stable today and it is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.