Bobcat Lynx rufus (Schreber)



Photo courtesy of Conrad Fijetland,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Images Library

Description:   Bobcats are the only native member of the family Felidae still found in Kansas. They are medium-sized cats that can be distinguished by: 1) short, round face, 2) very short tail, 3) broadly triangular ears (when seen from front) black with a white spot or band on the back and usually topped by small "tufts" of hair, 4) elongate legs, 5) dorsal fur colored various shades of buff, brown or reddish-orange, streaked with black on the head (in some cases streaks continue down the back as three to five dark lines), and 6) white undersides with black spots.

Size:   Adults may attain the following dimensions: total length 813-1010 mm; tail 100-162 mm; hind foot 165-195 mm; ear 67-80 mm; weigh 3.6-10 kilograms.

Range and Habitat:   Bobcats range throughout Kansas. In eastern Kansas they prefer wooded areas, especially those with a well-developed shrub layer, and forest edges. In central and western Kansas they are found on the rocky hillsides and in shrubby habitats along stream courses and ravines. There are two subspecies in Kansas, Lynx rufus baileyi Merriam in the west and L. rufus rufus (Schreber) in the east.

Reproduction:   Bobcats breed from January until July or August (and possibly later), but the peak of activity is from February to May. Females may sometimes breed twice a year. Litters are born after a gestation period of 63 days, and range from one to seven (usually three) kittens. The kittens are born with their eyes closed and weigh between 230 and 340 grams at birth. Around five weeks of age the kittens first leave the den. Usually only the female brings them food; they are weaned at about two months. When they are three to five months old, the kittens follow the female while she hunts. They disperse at about seven to nine months, and litter-mates may travel together for some time after leaving the female parent.

Habits:   The size of the area over which individual bobcats range varies greatly (from 2.4 to 100 square kilometers) depending on local topography, habitat and food abundance. Smallest ranges occur in forested areas with abundant prey. Larger home ranges are found in arid prairie and desert habitats. Dens are sometimes made in rock crevices, hollow logs and windfalls. Dried grasses, mosses and leaves are occasionally used to construct a nest but it is usually unimproved. Individual bobcats may establish more than one den, using a different site each night as they traverse their home range. Population densities are estimated at two to five bobcats per square kilometer is forested habitat. Females defended their territories from other females but permit males to establish ranges within their territory. Males are tolerant of other males and ranges frequently overlap. In some regions many individuals do not find suitable habitat in which to establish home ranges, remain transient, and may move over great distances, sometimes more than 160 kilometers.

Food:   Individual diet varies seasonally and geographically depending upon available prey species. Typically, rabbits and hares make up about half of the items in the diet. Deer, mostly fawns and injured adults, frequently comprise a major portion of the remaining food items in areas where deer are heavily hunted or where severe winters and deep snow makes them susceptible to predation. Otherwise, rodents and , to a lesser extent, birds make up the remainder of the diet.

Remarks:   The only natural predator of bobcats is the mountain lion. Coyotes have been known to tree bobcats, and female deer with fawns will attack and drive them away. Bobcats are fairly common in eastern Kansas and decrease in numbers westward in the state. Because of their keen senses of sight and hearing bobcats are seldom seen, even where they are relatively common. Little is known about the longevity of bobcats in nature. estimates indicate individuals may live a maximum of 10 to 14 years. Bobcats in captivity live for more than 25 years.

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