Mississippi State University

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)


The bobcat is a member of the Felidae family and is related to the house cat and the lynx. Bobcats are sexually dimorphic, with males being larger than females. Bobcat density is highly dependenton habitat conditions and prey abundance, ranging from 0.09 and 2.7 bobcats/square kilometer. Bobcats are found throughout the southeastern United States, but are seldom seen, due primarily to decreased activity during the daytime.

Male bobcats are incapable of breeding their first year, whereas females can breed during their first year. However, several studies have indicated that most females may not have a successful litter until their second year. Litter sizes are relatively small, generally ranging from 1 to 4. Because bobcats are polyestrous, multiple litters are possible, but usually a second litter occurs only if the first litter is lost.

Bobcats are highly carnivorous, preying primarily on rodents (rats, mice) and rabbits. Other mammalian prey items reported in bobcat diets have included include squirrels, raccoon, deer, opossum, and beaver. Bobcats also may consume reptiles, songbirds, and insects.

Home ranges of bobcats may range from 300 to 6000 ha across the southeastern United States, but are generally larger in more northern latitudes. Males generally maintain larger home ranges than females. Because prey species preferred by the bobcat (rodents and rabbits) are usually most abundant in early successional stages, bobcats frequently use early seral stages of pine, mixed pine-hardwood, or hardwood stands. Female bobcats are more selective in habitat use than males, likely the function of females having to select habitats that provides habitat suitable for survival of young and self-maintenance. Bobcats also may use mature hardwood stands and pine stands or agricultural fields and pastures if edges and fencerows adjacent to these areas are maintained.

Bobcats are not susceptible to many parasites or diseases, but populations may be affected by the epizootic feline panleukopenia, also known as feline distemper. It is highly infectious, but little information exists regarding its prominence in wild bobcat.
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