The bobcat (Lynx rufus), alias “wildcat,”
is a medium-sized member of the
North American cat family. It can be
distinguished at a distance by its
graceful catlike movements, short (4-
to 6-inches [10- to 15-cm]) “bobbed”
tail, and round face and pointed ears
(Fig. 1). Visible at close distances are
black hair at the tip of the tail and
prominent white dots on the upper
side of the ears.
Body hair color varies, but the animal’s
sides and flanks are usually brownish
black or reddish brown with either
distinct or faint black spots. The back
is commonly brownish yellow with a
dark line down the middle. The chest
and outside of the legs are covered
with brownish to light gray fur with
black spots or bars.
Bobcats living at
high elevations and in northern states
and Canada have relatively long hair.
In southern states, bobcats may have a
yellowish or reddish cast on their
backs and necks.
The bobcat is two to
three times the size of the domestic cat
and appears more muscular and fuller
in the body. Also, the bobcat’s hind
legs are proportionately longer to its
front legs than those of the domestic
The Canada lynx appears more slender
and has proportionately larger feet
than the bobcat. At close distances, the
ear tufts of the lynx can be seen. The
tail of the lynx appears shorter than
the bobcat’s and its tip looks like it was
dipped in black paint. The bobcat’s tail
is whitish below the tip. Lynx commonly
occur in Canada’s coniferous
forests and, rarely, in the Rocky Mountains.
Where both species occur, lynx
occupy the more densely forested
habitats with heavy snow cover.
Male bobcats tend to be larger than
females. Adult males range from 32 to
40 inches (80 to 102 cm) long and
weigh from 14 to 40 pounds (6 to 18
kg) or more. Bobcats in Wyoming
average between 20 and 30 pounds (9
and 14 kg). Nationwide, adult females
range from 28 to 32 inches (71 to 81
cm) long and weigh from 9 to 33
pounds (4 to 15 kg). Records indicate a
tendency for heavier bobcats in the
northern portions of their range and in
western states at medium altitudes.
The skull has 28 teeth. Milk teeth are
replaced by permanent teeth when
kittens are 4 to 6 months old. Females
have 6 mammae.
Range and Habitat
The bobcat occurs in a wide variety of
habitats from the Atlantic to the Pacific
ocean and from Mexico to northern
British Columbia (Fig. 2). It occurs in
the 48 contiguous states.
The bobcat is as adapted to subtropical
forests as it is to dense shrub and hardwood
cover in temperate climates.
Other habitats include chaparral,
wooded streams, river bottoms,
canyonlands, and coniferous forests to
9,000 feet (2,743 m). Bobcats prefer
areas where these native habitat types
are interspersed with agriculture and
escape cover (rocky outcrops) close by.
The bobcat has thrived where agriculture
is interspersed through the above
native habitat types, as in southern
Bobcats are capable of hunting and
killing prey that range from the size of
a mouse to that of a deer. Rabbits, tree
squirrels, ground squirrels, woodrats,
porcupines, pocket gophers, and
ground hogs comprise most of their
diet. Opossums, raccoon, grouse, wild
turkey, and other ground-nesting birds
are also eaten. Occasionally, insects
and reptiles can be part of the bobcat’s
diet. In Canada, the snowshoe hare is
the bobcat’s favorite fare. Bobcats
occasionally kill livestock. They also
resort to scavenging.
General Biology, Reproduction, and
Bobcats are secretive, shy, solitary, and
seldom seen in the wild. They are
active during the day but prefer twilight,
dawn, or night hours. Bobcats
tend to travel well-worn animal trails,
logging roads, and other paths. They
use their acute vision and hearing for
locating enemies and prey.
Bobcats do not form lasting pair
bonds. Mating can occur between
most adult animals. In Wyoming,
female bobcats reach sexual maturity
within their first year but males are not
sexually mature until their second
year. Nationwide, breeding can occur
from January to June. In Wyoming, breeding typically begins in February
and the first estrus cycle in mid-
March. The gestation period in bobcats
ranges from 50 to 70 days, averaging
Nationwide, young are born from
March to July, with litters as late as
October. The breeding season may be
affected by latitude, altitude, and longitude,
as well as by characteristics of
each bobcat population. In Wyoming,
births peak mid-May to mid-June and
can occur as late as August or September.
These late litters may be from
recycling or late-cycling females, probably
yearlings. In Utah, births may
peak in April or May. In Arkansas,
births may peak as early as March.
Bobcats weigh about 2/3 pound (300
g) at birth. Litters contain from 2 to 4
kittens. Kittens nurse for about 60 days
and may accompany their mother
through their first winter. Although
young bobcats grow very quickly during their first 6 months, males may
not be fully grown until 1 1/2 years
and females until 2 years of age.
may live for at least 12 years in the
Bobcats reach densities of about 1 per
1/4 square mile (0.7 km2) on some of
the Gulf Coast islands of the southeastern
United States. Densities vary from
about 1 per 1/2 square mile (1.3 km2)
in the coastal plains to about 1 cat per
4 square miles (10.7 km2) in portions of
the Appalachian foothills. Mid-Atlantic
and midwestern states usually have
scarce populations of bobcats.
The social organization and home
range of bobcats can vary with climate,
habitat type, availability of food, and
predators. Bobcats are typically territorial
and will maintain the same territories
throughout their lives. One
study showed home ranges in south
Texas to be as small as 5/8 square mile
(1.0 km2). Another study showed that
individual bobcats in southeastern
Idaho maintain home ranges from 2.5 square miles to 42.5 square miles (6.5 km2 to 108 km2) during a year. Females
and yearlings with newly established
territories tend to have smaller and
more exclusive ranges than males.
Females also tend to use all parts of
their range more intensively than adult
Bobcats commonly move 1 to 4 miles
(2 to 7 km2) each day. One study found
that bobcats in Wyoming moved from
3 to 7.5 miles (5 to 12 km) each day.
Transient animals can move much
greater distances; for example, a
juvenile in one study moved 99 miles
Adult bobcats are usually found
separately except during the breeding
season. Kittens may be seen with their
mothers in late summer through
winter. An Idaho study found adult
bobcats and kittens in den sites during
periods of extreme cold and snow.
Females with kittens less than 4
months old generally avoid adult
males because they kill kittens.
In Canada and the western United
States, bobcat population levels tend to
follow prey densities. Some biologists
believe that coyote predation restricts
bobcat numbers. Unfortunately, not
enough is known about the relative
importance of factors such as litter
size, kitten survival, adult sex ratios,
and survival rates to predict changes
in local bobcat populations. Also, relatively
low densities and variable trapping
success hinder researchers from
easily predicting changes in populations.
Since the late 1970s, state game agencies
have been tagging bobcat pelts
harvested in their states. Information
from these pelts is being used to estimate
bobcat population trends and
factors that contribute to those
Damage and Damage Identification
Bobcats are opportunistic predators,
feeding on poultry, sheep, goats, house
cats, small dogs, exotic birds and game
animals, and, rarely, calves. Bobcats
can easily kill domestic and wild turkeys,
usually by climbing into their
night roosts. In some areas, bobcats
can prevent the successful introduction
and establishment of wild turkeys or
can deplete existing populations.
Bobcats leave a variety of sign. Bobcat
tracks are about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8
cm) in diameter and resemble those of
a large house cat. Their walking stride
length between tracks is about 7 inches
Carcasses of bobcat kills are often distinguishable
from those of cougar, coyote,
or fox. Bobcats leave claw marks
on the backs or shoulders of adult deer
or antelope. On large carcasses, bobcats
usually open an area just behind
the ribs and begin feeding on the viscera.
Sometimes feeding starts at the
neck, shoulders, or indquarters. Bobcats
and cougar leave clean-cut edges
of tissue or bone while coyotes leave
ragged edges where they feed.
Bobcats bite the skull, neck, or throat
of small prey like lambs, kids, or
fawns, and leave claw marks on their
sides, back, and shoulders. A single
bite to the throat, just behind the
victim’s jaws, leaves canine teeth
marks 3/4 to 1 inch (2 to 2.5 cm) apart.
Carcasses that are rabbit-size or
smaller may be entirely consumed at
one feeding. Bobcats may return several
times to feed on large carcasses.
Bobcats, like cougars, often attempt to
cover unconsumed remains of kills by
scratching leaves, dirt, or snow over
them. Bobcats reach out about 15
inches (38 cm) in raking up debris to
cover their kills, while cougars may
reach out 24 inches (61 cm).
Bobcats also leave signs at den sites.
Young kittens attempt to cover their
feces at their dens. Females with
young kittens may mark prominent
points around den sites with their feces. Adult bobcats leave conspicuous
feces along frequently traveled rocky
ridges or other trails. These are sometimes
used as territorial markings at
Adult bobcats also mark trails or cave
entrances with urine. This is sprayed
on rocks, bushes, or snow banks. Bobcats
may leave claw marks at urine or
feces scent posts by scraping with their
hind feet. These marks are 10 to 12
inches (25 to 30 cm) long by 1/2 inch
(1.25 cm) wide.
Bobcats also occasionally squirt a
pasty substance from their anal glands
to mark areas. The color of this substance
is white to light yellow in young
bobcats but is darker in older bobcats.
Among midwestern states, the bobcat
is protected in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana,
Ohio, and in most counties of Kentucky.
It is managed as a furbearer or
game animal in the plains states. Western
states generally exempt depredating
bobcats from protected status.
They can usually be killed by landowners
or their agent. In the more
eastern states and states where bobcats
are totally protected, permits are
required from the state wildlife agency
to destroy bobcats. Consult with your
state wildlife agency regarding local
regulations and restrictions.
Damage Prevention and
Use woven-wire enclosures to discourage
bobcats from entering poultry and
small animal pens at night. Bobcats
can climb, so wooden fence posts or
structures that give the bobcat footing
may not be effective. Bobcats also have
the ability to jump fences 6 feet (1.8 m)
or more in height. Use woven wire
overhead if necessary. Fences are seldom
totally effective except in very
Bobcats prefer areas with sufficient
brush, timber, rocks, and other cover,
and normally do not move far from
these areas. Keep brush cut or sprayed
around ranches and farmsteads to
eliminate routes of connecting vegetation
from bobcat habitat to potential
Use night lighting with white flashing
lights, or bright continuous lighting, to
repel bobcats. You can also use blaring
music, barking dogs, or changes in
familiar structures to temporarily discourage
Repellents, Fumigants, and Toxicants
No chemical repellents, fumigants, or
toxicants are currently registered for
bobcats. Commercial house cat repellents
might be effective in some very
unusual circumstances. A hindrance to
development of toxicants is the bobcat’s
preference to feed on fresh kills.
Bobcats are more easily trapped than
are coyotes or foxes, but the bobcat’s
reclusiveness makes set locations difficult
to find. When hunting, bobcats
use their sense of smell less than
coyotes do, so lures and baits are usually
not effective. The bobcat’s acute
vision, hearing, and inquisitiveness
however, can be capitalized upon.
Even with the best sets, bobcats cannot
be lured from their course of travel
more than a few yards (m). The
bobcat’s use of dense cover for capturing
rodents and rabbits can be used in
capture techniques to guide the animal
or even its footsteps.
In the past, the demand for bobcat
pelts was moderately high due to fur values. This had encouraged late fall
and winter harvest periods. Also, the
bobcat’s high fur quality attracts harvest
for recreation or utility. If bobcat
depredations are common over time,
consider inviting a fur trapper to take
bobcats during prime fur periods. Fewer bobcats may result in less competition
for native foods and less depredation.
Fur trappers may undertake
the capture and relocation of bobcats
during spring and summer months
from areas where depredations are
occurring in return for fur trapping
rights during fall and winter months.
Many of the same sets used for foxes
and coyotes will also catch bobcats.
Few sets that target bobcats will catch
other predators. Bobcats can be led by
guide sticks or brush to dirt hole or flat
sets where proper lures are used.
Steel leghold traps,
Nos. 2, 3, and 4 are commonly used to
capture bobcats. Trap size selection
depends on the area and weather conditions.
For coarse-textured sandy
soils, use a No. 2 coilspring trap. Use a
No. 3 trap for wet or fine-textured clay
soils. Use No. 4 traps for frozen soils
or in deep snow sets.
A bobcat is easy to hold, but sometimes
more power and jaw spread is
required than a No. 2 coilspring provides.
The bobcat’s foot may be too
large for proper foot placement and a
good catch. Guide sticks and stones
can be used.
Bobcats prefer fresh baits such as rabbit,
muskrat, or poultry. Scattered bits
of fur and feathers work well. Bobcats
can be drawn to traps by “flags” hung
from trees or rocks located near trap
sets (Fig. 4). Suspend flags about 4 feet
(1.3 m) above the ground with fine
wire or string. A combination of stiff
wire with string attached to its end
prevents entangling in tree branches.
Where animal parts are illegal, aluminum
foil or jar lids or imitation fur can
be used. Location is the key to trapping
bobcats. If the location is not correct,
no flags or baits will work.
A flag set uses a piece of fur or a
couple of feathers suspended about 4
feet (120 cm) above ground with fine
wire or string. Build a small mound of
soil under the flag 1 foot (30 cm) high
and 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter. Bobcats
step onto these mounds to reach the
flag. Bury steel leghold traps in the
Fig. 3. Blind or trail set using guide sticks
Steel leghold traps can also be used in other sets. See instructions in
the Mountain Lions chapter.
Trash or mound sets take advantage of
bobcats covering their scat and leftover
food (Fig. 5). This set is very common.
Pull up a pile of trash or litter over a
large bait, to mimic bobcat behavior.
A smaller mound can be made with
urine poured over the trash. These sets
are useful where exposed baits are illegal.
Both sets should be used where
backing such as rocks or trees are
available. Place a steel leghold trap
and guide sticks in front of trash pile
traps are very effective killer
traps for eliminating bobcats. These
kill traps are spring-loaded. When the
trigger is released, the trap closes on
the animal in a scissors-like action. An
example of this type of trap is the Victor® No. 330 Conibear®. This trap, and
others like it, can be very dangerous to
use, breaking arms, or killing large
dogs if improperly set. Check local
regulations to determine if they are
legal to use in your area. For bobcats,
set these traps in trails at the base of a
cliff or in brush. Use bait or lures
beyond the trap to entice the bobcat to
walk through it. Strategic bait placement
also keeps bobcats preoccupied.
These sets can be made in dense cover
in trails, at the entrances to dens, or at
gaps in fences or brush where bobcats
travel. These traps can also be set in
entrances to cubbies constructed to
trap bobcats. Place an attractive bait at
the rear of the cubby and place the kill
trap so that the bobcat must go
through it to reach the bait. See
Mountain Lions for other sets made
with body-gripping traps.
Specific instructions on trapping bobcats
are found in Boddicker (1980).
Extensive bobcat trapping methods
can also be found in Weiland (1976),
Young (1941), Johnson (1979), and
Musgrave and Blair (1979). Check all
local and state laws for using traps,
snares, baits, or lures.
Wire Cage Traps
Very large cage
traps, made of wire mesh or metal,
when properly set, are effective. Commercial
traps from 15 x 15 x 40 inches
(38 x 38 x 100 cm) up to 24 x 24 x 48
inches (60 x 60 x 120 cm) are available.
Use brush or grass on the top and
sides of the cage to give the appearance
of a natural “cubby” or recess in a
rock outcrop or brush. Traps should be
set in the vicinity of depredations,
travelways to and from bobcat cover,
Mound 1' high x 1 1/2' diameter
Fig. 4. Flag set made with a buried steel leghold trap in a moun.
Flag (feathers, fur, tinsel)
5' snare, one on each
end of tunnel
Stakes to tie down tunnel
Brush or grass
to cover outside
Fig. 6. Cubby set with snare.
Set snares in trails where bobcats are
known to travel (Fig. 7).
lures are usually not used with snares
and may hinder success. Use camouflage
only to break up some of the outline
of the snare, preferably with native
material, like grasses. Do not tie camouflage
material to the loop of the
snare. Spring-loaded snares work best.
Put “memory” into the snare by placing
tension on the inside of the lock
against the cable with your finger as
you close the snare once or twice. This
prevents a bobcat from walking
through a snare. Cables respond to the
memory by closing easily.
Kill snares actually kill the captured
bobcat and are most often used during
the furbearer season or for animals for
which relocation has failed (Fig. 8).
They are best made from fine steel
cable, 1/16 inch (0.15 cm) or 5/64 inch
(0.2 cm) in diameter. Positive locks
work well. Set kill snares with the bottom
of the loop about 10 to 12 inches
(25 to 30 cm) off the ground with a
loop 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in
diameter. This loop must be set perpendicular
to the trail.
Live snare sets capture and hold bobcats
alive. They differ from kill snare
sets by their cable size, locks, and
entanglement precautions. Larger
cables and relaxed locks on live snare
sets can reduce injury if set properly.
Relaxed locks tighten onto animals but
relax as the animal stops struggling.
This allows the animal to breath normally
and regain composure.
Kill snares may be tied off to a 3-inch
(7.5-cm) diameter tree or larger . To
aid quick kills, hammer 2-foot (60-cm)
stakes into the ground, leaving 6 to 8
inches (15 to 20 cm) aboveground. Killsnare
locks (Gregerson, Camlock,
Thompson, Keflock) are in several of
the supply catalogs listed in Supplies
The live snare set (Fig. 9) requires
more expertise than the kill snare set.
Also, capture and transport of bobcats
is very dangerous. Use 3/32-inch
(0.25-cm) steel cable 6 to 8 feet (1.9 to
2.5 m) long. Use snares with high
quality swivels located midway or
closer to the loop. Stake live snares to
the ground with steel stakes, hammered
to just below ground level. Use
loop sizes as in the kill snare set. Clear
and around bobcat trails, dens, and
hunting sites. Cover the cage bottom
with soil. Bait the cage with poultry,
rabbit, or muskrat carcasses, or live
animals. Check local and state laws for
Snares are very effective for
bobcats but require expertise and caution.
When properly set, a snare can be
used to either kill or restrain a bobcat.
Snares can be placed in the same locations
and situations as body-gripping
traps. They are particularly effective in
cubby sets, bobcat runways, and den
entrances (Fig. 6). Properly placed,
snares offer the advantages of bodygripping
traps without the danger to
pets and nontarget wildlife. Fig. 7. Trail set with snare. Base of steep hill or
rock outcrop “fence”
with rocks, brush, grass
or brush permissible
Place grass or brush on both sides of snare and guide
to break up outline.
2' tangle stakes
Kink in cable at
lock on end of snare
Total area surrounding stake is
cleared of entanglements
(rocks, brush, stumps)
Fig. 9. Live snare with washer lock.
Fig. 8. Kill snare with washer lock.
Use extreme caution when releasing a
snared animal. Catch poles with
adjustable steel nooses, thick leather
gloves or gauntlets, and other protective
clothing are necessary. Immobilizing
drugs such as ketamine hydrochloride
should be accessible. Two
people should handle captures; one
at the neck and the other at the back
feet to remove the snare. Cut a 1/2- x
4-inch (1.2- x 10-cm) slot from the
bottom up toward the center of a 3- x
3-foot (1- x 1-m), 5/8-inch (1.6-cm) or
larger piece of plywood. A handle
should be attached at the upper end.
Place the plywood between you and
the snared animal and let the cable run
through the slot as you approach,
keeping the cable tight. Check live
snare sets frequently to avoid unnecessary
stress and loss of captured bobcats
to predators, such as eagles, coyotes,
and mountain lions. See Supplies
and Materials for suppliers of bobcat
snares. Always ask for expert advice
before attempting live captures. Extensive
instructions on snaring can be
found in Grawe (1981) and Krause
Bobcats respond to predator calls at
night and can be shot. Use a red, blue, or amber lens with an 80,000- to
200,000-candlepower (lumen) spotlight
to locate bobcats. Sources of predator
calls are found in Supplies and
Dogs trained to track bobcats can be
useful in removing problem animals.
Bobcats can be shot after being treed.
Bobcats may develop a time pattern
in their depredations on livestock or
poultry. You can lie in wait and
ambush the bobcat as it comes in for
the kill. Rifles of .22 centerfire or
larger, or shotguns with 1 1/4 ounces
(35 g) or more of No. 2 or larger shot
are recommended, since bobcats are
rather large and require considerable
Economics of Damage
Damage by bobcats is rather uncommon
and statistics related to this damage
are not well developed. In western
states where data have been obtained,
losses of sheep and goats have comprised
less than 10% of all predation
losses. Typical complaints of bobcat
predation involve house cats and poultry
allowed to roam at will in mountain
subdivisions and ranches. Bobcats
are taken by trappers and by hunters
using hounds. The pelts are used for
coats, trim, and accessories, the spotted
belly fur being most aluable. Bobcat
pelts are used for wall decorations
and rugs. In recent years, North
American bobcat harvests have produced
about 25,000 pelts valued at $2.5
million annually. Aesthetically, the
bobcat is a highly regarded carnivore.
To many people the bobcat represents
the essence of wildness in any habitat
*The above information was taken from a University of Nebraska Web site with
express permission of Stephen Vatassel, wildlife damage project coordinator.