Bobcat Problems and Solutions


The bobcat (Felis Rufus) and the lynx (F. lynx), a close cousin, are widely distributed throughout North America. Bobcats are present throughout most of the United States and into southern Canada; lynxes are generally more prevalent farther north. Both species are absent from a large part of the Midwest; this is thought to be the result of eviction by early settlers, although there is some debate as to whether the animals ever lived there at all. These creatures tend to shun developed areas, but do make occasional forays into yards.

The bobcat is easily confused with a cougar or a housecat because of its size. Males are, on average, larger than females; some are as large as a female cougar. Some females, in contrast, are smaller than a large housecat, adding to the confusion. However, with a little experience, an observer can distinguish a bobcat from a housecat by its larger-boned and more muscular body structure, and the short tail tipped with dark fur sets it apart from the cougar’s long, sweeping tail.

Male bobcats are generally a third larger than their female counterparts from the same area. Usually, females are less than 20 pounds, with some as light as 10 or 11 pounds (well within the same range as the housecat). Males average about 25 pounds on a 30- to 36-inch frame.

Bobcats can inhabit many different types of habitats, from small forested areas and open grasslands to brushland and semiarid desert, as long as some cover is available. A bobcat’s primary home range differs greatly within the species, anywhere from under a square mile to more than a hundred times that. A female’s home range is exclusive; a male can overlap with several females and sometimes even those of other males.

Bobcats are carnivores who will prey on nearly anything in size, from a shrew to an adult deer. The general preference is prey about the size of a cottontail rabbit (about 2 pounds) up to a raccoon (10 to 15 pounds). Larger prey may be hidden under leaves and other plant material and revisited several times if it is too large for one meal.

Bobcats are seasonal breeders, mating in the late winter and early spring. Male and female relationships generally last only for courtship and mating, after which they separate. Bobcat litters develop in about 60 days, about the same as that of a housecat. Litters are two to four kittens on average. Under optimal conditions, a female bobcat may have more than one litter per year. The young are generally independent by late fall or early winter.

Rocky ledges are critical for bobcat habitats. They provide shelter, cover, and den sites for birthing and rearing young. Hollow trees and logs are occasionally used, but only when a rocky ledge is unavailable.

Problems and Solutions

Bobcats cause very few problems for humans, and the animal rarely kills domestic livestock. Bobcats may occasionally take house pets, which is yet another reason why cats should not be fed outdoors and should not be allowed to roam freely outside. The best way to avoid conflicts between bobcats and housecats is to keep your housecat indoors. Eliminating cover and food helps make an area less attractive to bobcats.

Because of their typically large home range, sightings and visits from these animals are rare. They are, however, an important, perhaps critical, part of the balance of nature. Their carnivorous habits and their preference for rabbits and rodents mean they can help balance the populations of these animals.

Reprinted with permission from the Humane Society of the U.S. website at www.hsus.org.

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