Bobcat in the snow. a North American mammal of the cat family Felidae photo during winter in West Virginia. © Kent Mason

Stories in Indiana


The elusive wild bobcat.

What Makes Bobcats Special?

The bobcat is often confused with its cousin, the lynx, as both share a tannish brown coat with dark spots or lined markings. The differences between the two species are in the details. Bobcats have short, pointy dark tufts of hair on the tops of their ears and fluffy tufts of hair on their cheeks. Bobcats also have short, bobbed tails that are four to seven inches in length.

Bobcats are entirely carnivorous and like to prey on smaller mammals such as rabbits, mice, moles and squirrels. Sometimes birds and reptiles are included in their diets. The largest animals a bobcat has been known to kill are deer, usually in the winter months when small rodents are scarce. Bobcats only hunt from dusk to dawn.

Bobcats favor remote rocky outcrops and heavily wooded areas, though they are, at times, found on the urban edge. Rugged terrain, deep forests and caves make perfect dens and hunting grounds. The home ranges established by bobcats are vast and guarded. Bobcats are very territorial and will outline their space by scent markings. While male territories will sometimes overlap, females won't share their space with any other female bobcat.

As solitary and far-ranging mammals, interactions between humans and bobcats are rare, but humans are the bobcat's largest threat. Bobcats need large areas of interconnected wild lands to thrive. Land development, over-hunting and trapping bobcats for their fur are just a few reasons bobcat populations can decline.

This endangered New Jersey bobcat was photographed at TNC's Blair Creek Preserve.
Bobcat This bobcat was photographed at TNC's Blair Creek Preserve in New Jersey. © Tyler Christensen

Facts about Bobcats

  • Bobcats emit an eerie scream that can be heard for miles. 
  • A bobcat's personal territory can span out up to 30 square miles for males and five square miles for females. These territories are clearly marked by the bobcat's urine and/or feces.
  • Bobcats have excellent vision and hearing and a well-developed sense of smell.
  • Unlike the domesticated house cat, bobcats enjoy the water and are very good swimmers.
  • As incredibly skilled climbers, bobcats easily maneuver around rocky terrain and climb up tall trees when pursuing their prey.
  • Bobcats are quiet hunters who pounce on their prey and kill it with one bite. These large cats are known to leap up to ten feet in the air.
  • Bobcat tracks are easy to distinguish - roundish paw, four toes and no claw-markings.

American Bobcat Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Lynx rufus
  • Length: 24-48 inches long
  • Height: 18-24 inches tall
  • Weight: 15-30 lbs. (males larger)
  • Coat coloration: tannish with dark spots; lighter coloring on belly
  • Distinguished by: short (4-7 in) tail with a black tip on the top side; tufts of hair on top of ears and on cheeks
  • Habitats: found throughout North American forests, mountains and brushlands
  • Feeding habits: carnivorous; feed on small mammals and birds; occasionally reptiles
  • Predators: kittens are hunted by foxes, coyotes and large owl; humans are the only threat to adults
  • Reproduction: mate February to March; average litter of two to three kittens; young stays with mother 7-12 months
  • Life span: 10-15 years in wild
  • Conservation status: abundant populations in the U.S. and Canada