Description and Identification
The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a medium sized member of the North American wild cat family. This charismatic feline generally weighs between 12 and 40 pounds. Although females are considerably smaller at 8 to 30 pounds. It can usually be identified at a distance by its short (4-6") bobbed tail and its round face with pointed ears. At close distances, dark, transverse bars on the tail and prominent white dots on the upper back side of the ears are usually visible. The chest and outside of the legs are covered with brownish to light gray fur with black spots and bars. The tip of the tail is black on top, but white on the underside. They have short ear tufts and ruffs of hair on the side of the head giving the appearance of sideburns.
Habitat and Home Range
Bobcats can be found throughout most of California, in most habitat types. Prime bobcat habitats are chaparral vegetation types and the brushy stages of low and mid-elevation conifer, oak, riparian, and pinyon-juniper woodlands and forests. Bobcats use areas with dense brush cover and cavities in rocks, snags logs, and stumps for both cover and for denning.
Largely carnivorous, bobcats prey upon a variety of animals, including rabbits, rodents, wood rats, porcupines, raccoons, deer fawns, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and invertebrates. Prey are usually stalked or ambushed from the ground, trees, logs, or rocks. Bobcats sometimes consume plant materials (mostly fruits and grass).
Behavior and Family Structure
Bobcats are generally secretive and solitary. Males and females only associate for the brief time required for courtship and mating. A litter of about 3 kittens is typically born between April and July in dens found in caves or hollow logs or trees. Young disperse at around 8 months old. Although, generally most active at night and during twilight hours, it is not unusual to see them during daytime.
Scientists maintain that the presence of bobcats are important to the health and biodiversity of an ecosystem. Bobcats are a native California species and fill a niche within the wildlife community it inhabits. The bobcat eats rodents and other small mammals which aids in maintaining plant diversity. Soils are enriched by nutrients fed upon carcasses provide. Birds rely on worms and insects in carcasses.
Preventing Problems with Bobcats
Bobcats are by nature wary of people and may not pose a significant threat to human safety. However, unprotected pets and livestock may be at risk. If you live near or where bobcats and other wildlife also live, prevention is key in reducing human-wildlife conflict and preventing the loss of pets and livestock.