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Bobcat (Lynx rufus) Fact Sheet: Summary

Bobcat (Lynx rufus) Fact Sheet

Bobcat standing on flat rock

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia (Linnaeus, 1758) — mammals

Order: Carnivora (Bowdich, 1821) — carnivores

Family: Felidae (Fischer, 1817) — cats

Genus: Lynx (Kerr, 1792) — bobcats, lynxes

Species: Lynx rufus (Schreber, 1777) — botcat

Subspecies: L. r. rufus (Schreber, 1777)*
Subspecies: L. r. fasciatus (Rafinesque, 1817)

*Note: One or more unique subspecies may occur in Mexico. More genetic research needed to clarify population structure (Kitchener et al. 2017).
Sources: Kitchener et al. (2017), ITIS (2020)

Body Weight
Male: average: 9 kg (20 lb); range: 6.4 to 18 kg (14 to 40 lb)
Female: average: 5.8 to 9.2 kg (13 to 20 lb); range: 4.1 to 15 kg (9.0 to 33 lb)

Total Length
Male: 475 to 1252 mm (18.7 to 49.3 in)
Female: 610 to 1092 mm (24.0 to 43.0 in)

Tail Length
Male: 108 to 201 mm (4.25 to 7.91 in)
Female: 90 to 171 mm (3.5 to 6.73 in)

Upper parts light gray to yellowish brown to reddish brown. Under parts white with black spots. Newborn coat tawny olive.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Widespread in North America: southern Canada to southern Mexico.

Occurs in a wide variety of habitats, including forest, shrubland, grassland, deserts, coastal marshes/swamps, and agricultural areas.

IUCN Status
Least Concern

CITES Appendix
Appendix II

Populations in the Wild
Considered abundant. Most populations in Canada and the U.S. stable (some local population declines). An estimated 2.3 to 3.6 million individuals in the U.S.

Most time spent on the ground, though excellent climbers.

Activity Cycle
Most active during early to late morning and at dusk; sometimes also at night.

Social Groups
Adults solitary, except during breeding. Often defend territory from other bobcats, particularly individuals of same sex. Temporary mixing of litters, mixing of juveniles and adults, or male near female with kittens.

Opportunistic predators. Mainly small mammals, particularly rabbits/hares, small rodents (e.g., rats, mice, squirrels). Also deer (particularly fawns) and medium-sized mammals (e.g., mountain beaver, porcupine, marmot). Uncommonly, birds.

Few non-human predators—coyote, mountain lion, wolves, Burmese python, domestic dogs. Young may be taken by Great Horned Owl, fox, and male bobcat.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity
Males: about 1.5 to 2 years of age
Females: Physically mature at 1 year of age; begin breeding during 2nd year

Approximately 60 to 70 days

Litter Size
2 to 3 young, on average (majority of litters 1 to 6)

Interbirth Interval
Females give birth once a year; rarely, 2 litters per year

Birth Weight
Approximately 280 to 370 g (9.9 to 13 oz)

Age at Weaning
2 to 3 months old

Typical Life Expectancy
Wild populations: Depends on population. Northeastern USA: typically 6–7 years where no hunting; typically 3 years where hunting and vehicle collisions are common.
Managed care: median life expectancy of about 18 years

Feature Facts

  • Medium-sized cat
  • Named for its short tail
  • “Wildcat” is a popular nickname
  • Ambush hunter
  • Strong senses of vision and hearing
  • Scent marking important in communication and territory defense
  • Claw bare tree trunks, possibly to communicate with other bobcats
  • Commonly enter neighborhoods but often cryptic
  • Usually silent but produce loud calls during mating season
  • Legally hunted in the U.S. and Canada
  • Populations in U.S. Midwestern states have rebounded since extirpation in early 1900s
  • South Florida populations threatened by invasive Burmese python

About This Fact Sheet

For detailed information, click the tabs at the top of this page.


© 2020 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


How to cite: Bobcat (Lynx rufus) Fact Sheet. c2020. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. bobcat.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2019 Dec 31)


Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


Thank you to Prof. Rory Carroll for providing expert content review for this fact sheet.

Rory Carroll is an Assistant Professor of Biology and the Wildlife and Conservation Biology program coordinator at Southern Arkansas University. He earned a Ph.D. in Earth and Environmental Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he used a multidisciplinary approach to study long-term trends in bobcat (Lynx rufus) populations in a rapidly developing region. Prof. Carroll's broad research interest is in exploring how human resource use affects the animals with whom we share the landscape.

Thank you to SDZG Associate Curator of Behavorial Husbandry Nicki Boyd for sharing her knowledge of lynx and bobcat husbandry for the Managed Care section of this fact sheet.

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