Did you know that there are 12 subspecies of the bobcat? Or that there are over 100,000 bobcats in the wild? We will put forth more of such interesting facts about bobcats, which will help you get familiar with the species.
The Lynx family
The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is one of the four species that together form the genus Lynx; the Canadian lynx (Lynx canadensis), Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx), and the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) being the other three.
That the bobcat (A.K.A. bob-tailed cat or bay lynx) is enlisted as a ‘Least Concern’ species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) should come as a pleasant surprise, considering that the animal is threatened by fragmentation of habitat as a result of land clearance for agriculture, excessive hunting for its pelt, and of late, large-scale culling by farmers who consider it a threat for their livestock. And yet, the bobcat is going strong, with an estimated population of around 1,000,000 to 1,500,000 in the wild.
If the bobcat has been able to hold its ground, it is largely because of its ability to adapt. Even today, the bobcat is expanding its range further into Canada, as warm winters make it a suitable habitat for the species. Despite their large number, most people know very little about bobcats, and that can be attributed to the fact that they are shy, elusive, and crepuscular.
Some Interesting Facts About the Bobcat
The geographic range of bobcats.
The geographical range of the bobcat spans the continental United States, as well as parts of southern Canada up north and northern Mexico down south. In the continental United States, it is found in all states, except for Delaware. Interestingly, it boasts of the widest distribution among the North American cats, which is expected to increase further as it marches north into Canada.
A bobcat in snowclad region.
The bobcat is definitely one of the most adaptable animals in the world. That becomes all the more obvious when we look at the diverse regions the species inhabits, right from the coniferous, boreal, and mixed woodlands of the Great Lakes basin to the swamps of the Everglades and arid areas of the Sonoran desert.
A bobcat in mountainous region.
On an average, an adult male measures 32 – 37 inches and weighs up to 40 lb. It is smallest of the four species of the genus Lynx, but twice the size of a domestic cat. It can be identified by the typical black tufts, which are common to lynx species, and its characteristic stubby tail, from which it derives its common name.
A Florida bobcat (Lynx rufus floridanus), one of the 12 bobcat subspecies.
There are twelve recognized subspecies of the bobcat, namely Lynx rufus baileyi, Lynx rufus californicus, Lynx rufus escuinapae, Lynx rufus fasciatus, Lynx rufus floridanus, Lynx rufus gigas, Lynx rufus oaxacensis, Lynx rufus pallescens, Lynx rufus peninsularis, Lynx rufus rufus, Lynx rufus superiorensis, and Lynx rufus texensis.
A bobcat with a pheasant that it hunted.
Though its diet primarily comprises small mammals, like rabbits and hares, and ground-dwelling birds, the bobcat does occasionally go for insects, reptiles, and rodents. It eats heavily when food is available in plenty, after which it can go without food for a considerable time. In winter, it hunts larger animals, such as a deer or fox, and survives on the kill for a couple of days.
In bobcat, we have an apt example of a stalk-and-ambush predator. The medium-sized wild cat stalks its prey, pounces on it, and kills it by biting its neck vertebrae. The young ones of a bobcat have a few natural predators, like coyote (Canis latrans), cougar (Felis concolor), gray wolf (Canis lupus), Red fox (Vulpes vulpes), and some birds of prey. As for adults, they are only threatened by humans and at times, by cougars and wolves.
The opportunistic animal is notorious for its tendency to prey on livestock and poultry. This has put the bobcat at loggerheads with humans. While some people resort to traditional methods of dealing with the problem and try to trap bobcats or frighten them using bright lights and loud sound, others go to the extent of poisoning or shooting them in order to protect their livestock and poultry.
A bobcat marking its territory by using its claws to make visible signs on a tree.
As far as the territorial behavior of bobcats is concerned, it is more common in females than in males. Adult males have a larger territory, with several auxiliary shelters spread all over, often overlapping that of each other. Like other wild cats, even bobcats mark their territory by scratching tree surfaces using their claws and leaving their scent by urinating and defecating.
When the Endangered Species Act (ESA) restricted the import of fur of endangered wild cats, commercial traders turned their attention to locally available species. The bobcat was one of the species to bear the brunt of this legislation. Between 1977 and 1981, around 94,000 bobcats were killed in the U.S. and Canada annually.
Though it is not considered threatened, the bobcat is enlisted in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This implies that its hunting and trade has to be monitored to ensure that it doesn’t become extinct in the near future. The rise in bobcat population has resulted in growing demand that it be removed from the CITES Appendix II.
Bobcat hunting is considered legal in some states of the U.S. In some of these states, the animal is even considered a game animal. In other states, the bobcat is protected and therefore, it is illegal to kill it, unless you are protecting your livestock. Then again, it’s better to be well-versed with the laws in your region before going trigger happy. As for keeping bobcats as pets, it is not a good idea for some obvious reasons; even illegal in some jurisdictions.