Facial fur is often streaked
with black. Dorsal surfaces of the ears are
black with a prominent white spot. Short tuft
of black hair is present on the ears. This cat
has a short tail, black only on the upper portion of
the tip. Bobcat fur is short, dense, and soft.
28 to 37 inches. Weight: 15
to 35 pounds.
Utilizes wide variety of habitats; known to be an
animal of patchy country. Prefers
rimrock and grassland/shrubland areas. Often
found in areas with dense understory vegetation and
high prey densities. Natural rocky areas are
preferred den sites.
Snowshoe hares and jackrabbits are the most common
prey. Also feeds heavily on medium-sized
rodents. Will eat carrion.
May be active during all hours but is primarily
nocturnal. Solitary animal that is difficult
to observe in the wild. Usually mates during
spring. Litter size averages from two to four.
Gestation 50 to 60 days. Young born May
Lynx - bobcat feet are much smaller than those of
the lynx. Feet lack large furry pads
characteristic of lynx. Also have shorter legs
than lynx. Lynx has black color all the way
around the tail tip. Other cats have a long
Bobcats are widely
distributed throughout the United States and
southern Canada in a variety of habitats, from dense
forests, to mountains, prairies, farmlands, and even
deserts. They are rarely seen in the wild because
the species normally travels by walking, and their
keen eyesight and hearing are always on the alert
for possible danger. Very capable predators, bobcats
hunt by stalking their prey.
Male bobcats are slightly larger and heavier than
females. Most adult males weigh 20 to 22 pounds, while
females average 18 to 19 pounds. Individuals may be much
larger at times, especially in the northern states where
many mature males may weigh 30 pounds. The heaviest
recorded bobcat was taken in Maine and weighed 76
Bobcats have short tails of 5 to
6 inches in length. The underside of the tail is
whitish, and there is a black spot near the end of the
tail. Lynx can be confused with bobcats in northern
areas, but the lynx tail is totally black, top and
bottom, over the entire end of the tail.
The bobcat has a face ruff of
longer fur, and slightly tufted ears. The back side of
the ears are dark in color, with obvious white centers.
Overall coloration is reddish,
greyish or brownish on the backs, with lighter colored
chins, throats, and bellies. Black spots are found on
the front legs and bellies of bobcats, and some younger
cats may be spotted almost all over the entire body.
Spotting is less pronounced on older bobcats, which also
tend to be darker in color.
Bobcats have retractable claws
which do not show up in tracks. The claws are extended
as the bobcat climbs a tree, catches prey, or defends
Bobcat have 28 teeth, including
four canine teeth. Meat is sheared off in sizes that can
be swallowed whole, without chewing.
Male bobcats do not breed as a
rule until they are nearly two years old. Juvenile
females are capable of breeding in their first year of
life. Litter sizes are usually 1 to 4, with 3 being the
Breeding normally takes place
during February or March. Gestation is 62 to 70 days.
Some female bobcats will raise two litters in a single
year, and late born young often stay with the mother
throughout the winter. Breeding times can vary a great
deal, and bobcats might be born in any month of the
Male bobcats are driven away
after breeding, and the males seek other females.
Females raise litters alone, which require that they
leave the young unattended to hunt.
Underground dens in rocky places
are usually selected as first choices for natal dens. If
these are not available, the female bobcat can choose a
hollow tree, or the underground den of another species
as bobcats do not dig their own dens.
Bobcats are dependent upon
rabbits in all areas. Bobcat population densities often
follow the cyclic densities of these rodents. Most young
bobcats are on their own by October, and significant
mortalities occur when there are few rabbits for the
young bobcats to prey upon.
Bobcats have keen senses of vision and hearing. The
sense of smell is also developed, but bobcats are more
dependent upon sight and sound to aid their particular
style of hunting.
Territory sizes vary according
to population densities, prey species densities, and
region of the country. Males have much larger
territories than females in all regions. A male bobcat's
territory will often overlap several females as well as
another male or two. A typical female will have a
territory size of about 6 square miles, whereas a male's
territory might be as large as 60 square miles. Bobcats
do not utilize all of their territories, but seem to
have circuitous routes that are traveled regularly. This
habit allows constant reproduction of prey species
within the territory.
Many female bobcats will not
travel further than one mile in a night. Both male and
female bobcats stop traveling after enough food has been
killed, and both sexes rest after feeding. For this
reason, the times it takes a bobcat to complete its
circuit varies a great deal. Most bobcats return to a
particular point on their circuit every week to three
Bobcats do not fear the water as
much as other cat species. Bobcats commonly wade and
swim, and many bobcats do not hesitate to attack a
beaver in shallow water.
Bobcats are skilled tree
climbers, and they do not hesitate to bound up a tree to
avoid persecution. When they are treed at night by dogs,
they often do not stay long but jump at the first
opportunity. When they are treed during the daylight
hours, they are prone to staying in the tree for longer
A good degree of curiosity
indicates that bobcats are somewhat intelligent.
However, a bobcat is also moody or indifferent at times,
which may indicate that the species responds most
actively when it is hungry.
Bobcats are capable of good
speed for short distances, but they normally walk while
traveling. When a prey species is noticed, the bobcat
will usually stalk the prey slowly until it is within
leaping distance. At other times, a bobcat may conceal
itself behind a rock or on a limb as it waits for a
victim to come within striking distance.
Bobcats rely on cottontails,
jackrabbits, or snowshoe hares for 75 to 90 percent of
their diets. Venison is the next largest food item,
followed by mice, ground squirrels, tree squirrels, and
occasionally skunk, beaver, muskrat and birds. Adult
deer can be killed by bobcats. This is most apt to
happen during winter months as other food items become
more difficult to catch.
Significant mortalities of juvenile bobcats can occur
during the first winter season. The young bobcats are
not as skilled at hunting as the adults, and many do not
survive their first winter when the weather is severe
and rabbit populations are at a low cycle. Juvenile
bobcats are also vulnerable to predation by mature male
bobcats, coyotes, eagles, and fishers. Mountain lions
and wolves occasionally kill adult bobcats. Predation by
either species is not thought to be significant.
Bobcats are vulnerable to
rabies, feline distemper, mange mites, tapeworms,
roundworms, lice, and bubonic plague.
As significant predators of
rabbits, bobcats help to stabilize rabbit population
cycles which benefit many predatory species. More
rabbits are killed when they are very abundant. During
periods of low rabbit populations, many bobcats become
malnourished and vulnerable to a variety of diseases and
exposure to harsh weather conditions. These controls
limit bobcat survival, and protect breeding populations
of rabbits during these low cycles.
Adult bobcats do prey upon deer,
especially when rabbits are spare and the deer are most
vulnerable during winter conditions of deep snow. A
bobcat usually eats no more than 2 or 3 pounds of meat
per day, and the deer carcass often serves as a food
source for other species as well. Some bobcats in
western areas do prey upon sheep, and a single bobcat
has been known to kill dozens of lambs in one night.
A bobcat is considered to be old
at 10 years of age.
Best Management Practices
Special Regulations Note
BOBCAT -- STATEWIDE
SEASON DATES: Trapping Districts 1, 2 and 3:
December 1 - February 15 of the following year. Trapping
Districts 4, 5, 6 and 7: December 1 - March 1 of the
following year. License must be purchased prior to
December 1. Season will close in 48 hours upon reaching
the trapping district quota or on the season closure
date, whichever occurs first.
may take and possess seven (7) bobcats each per season
in Trapping Districts 1, 2 and 3. There is no per
trapper limit in Trapping Districts 4, 5, 6 and 7. The
bobcat season on the Flathead Indian Reservation is
closed to all trappers (members and nonmembers).
Bobcat may be taken by hunting (MCA 87-2-601). Bobcat
hunting is open each day one-half hour before sunrise to
one-half hour after sunset during the open season.
Bobcat chasing is open each day from two (2) hours
before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset in the
hunting districts where mountain lion season has closed
(check mountain lion closures at 1-800-385-7826). Bobcat
chasing is open each day from one-half hour before
sunrise to one-half hour after sunset in the hunting
districts where mountain lion season is open. Bobcats
may not be taken until legal bobcat hunting hours.
Bobcats may not be hunted except during legal bobcat
hunting hours. Dogs may be used to hunt and chase
bobcats within prescribed seasons.
Dogs may be used to take bobcat
(MCA 87-3-124), but no other animals defined by law as
furbearing animals. Dogs may be used to hunt or chase
bobcats within prescribed hunting hours and seasons.
Persons with a valid trapper
license may legally chase bobcats during the open season
and anytime after the season is closed in the Trapping
District, or until April 14. A trapper license must be
purchased prior to December 1 of the current year to be
Landowner permission is required
to hunt on private land, including releasing dogs or
chasing bobcats during the chase-only season.
Trapping Districts 1, 2 and 3: February 16 - April 14.
Trapping Districts 4, 5, 6 and 7: March 2 - April 14.
Bobcat chasing is open each day one-half hour before
sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Dogs may be used
to chase bobcats within prescribed seasons. All Wildlife
Management Areas, National Wildlife Refuges and Deer,
Elk and Mountain Lion Hunting District 282 are closed to
the bobcat chase season.
It is prohibited for a hound
handler or bobcat hunter to release dogs on a bobcat
track, or allow dogs to chase a bobcat, or hold a bobcat
at bay, when the season is not open to hunting or
Bobcats may not be trapped to be
later released for hunting and/or chasing with dogs.
Wild furbearers captured alive must be immediately
killed or released. It is unlawful for a person to
possess or transport wild furbearers alive (MCA
harvest quota information may be obtained by calling the
appropriate Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office
during normal business hours or by calling
1-800-711-TRAP (1-800-711-8727) 24 hours a day or the
FWP website at fwp.state.mt.us. The toll free line and
website are updated by 1 pm. (MST) every day. Furbearer
seasons will close in 48 hours when a species quota is
reached prior to the end of the regular season.
The Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Commission has authorized the department to initiate a
closure prior to reaching a quota or subquota when
conditions or circumstances indicate the quota may be
reached within the 48-hour closure notice period.
Trappers or hunters are required to personally report
their bobcat harvest within 24 hours by calling the
Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional office during office
hours (8 AM - 5 PM weekdays) in the trapping district
where the animal was taken so that FWP can monitor quota
levels. Reporting can also be made after office hours
and on weekends by calling 1-406-449-1065.
Trappers and hunters are required to personally present
the pelts of bobcat for tagging to a designated Fish,
Wildlife & Parks employee residing in the trapping
district where the animal was taken within five (5) days
of harvest. Trappers or hunters unable to comply with
the five day pelt tagging requirements due to special
circumstances or the unavailability of local FWP
personnel must still register their pelts within five
days of harvest by calling the proper regional office to
make arrangements for tagging by FWP personnel at a
later time. Pelts not presented or registered to
department personnel within 5 days are subject to
Skulls: It is
mandatory that skulls of bobcat be turned into Fish,
Wildlife & Parks in good condition, at the time the pelt
is presented for tagging. The skulls will be retained by
Fish, Wildlife & Parks for processing and examination
and then returned to the owner if desired. Good
condition is defined as fresh or frozen and securely
wrapped in such a manner as to have prevented
decomposition in order that all tissue samples are
suitable for lab analysis.
Trappers are requested to be able
to identify or have skulls sorted by sex for bobcat
before presenting them to FWP personnel.
federal export permit is required in addition to a
Montana CITES tag before the pelts of bobcat and otter
may be exported from the United States. Apply to U. S.
Fish and Wildlife Service, 600 Central Plaza, Room 209,
Great Falls MT 59401.