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Bobcat (Lynx rufus) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Widespread in North America

  • Southern Canada to southern Mexico (Kelly et al. 2016)
    • Occur in all contiguous United States, except Delaware (Kelly et al. 2016)
      • Have recolonized Midwest states previously eradicated from (Roberts and Crimmins 2010)
    • Found throughout Mexico
  • Range expanding into northern Canada (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Kelly et al. 2016)

Elevation range

  • 0 to 3,500 m (0 to 12,000 ft) (Hall 1981; Kelly et al. 2016)
    • In western U.S., favor low-to-moderate elevations


Wide variety of habitats

(Hall 1981)

  • Forest (Rollings 1945; Nowell and Jackson 1996; Chamberlain et al. 2003; Abouelezz et al. 2018, and as noted)
    • Numerous types, including tropical forests in Florida (Sunquist and Sunquist 2009a)
    • Adapt to areas of cut forest, if cover and prey available (Hall 1981)
  • Shrubland (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Kelly et al. 2016; Abouelezz et al. 2018)
  • Grassland (Kelly et al. 2016)
    • Use areas with rocks, canyons, and waterways (Hall 1981)
  • Desert and semi-desert (Hall 1981; Nowell and Jackson 1996; Sunquist and Sunquist 2009a; Kelly et al. 2016)
  • Coastal marshes/swamps (Nowell and Jackson 1996; Thornton et al. 2004)
    • Southeastern U.S.
  • Agricultural areas, where sufficient cover (Sunquist and Sunquist 2009a)

Habitat preferences

  • Affinity for:
    • Forest edges (Reed et al. 2017)
    • Areas with dense vegetation, abundant prey, and den/shelter sites (Rollings 1945; Nowell and Jackson 1996)
      • Forests with undercover (Rollings 1945; Witczuk et al. 2015; Nielsen et al. 2018; Flores-Morales et al. 2019)
    • Creeks, streams, waterways, and wetlands (Lawhead 1984; Broman et al. 2014; Young, Golla, Draper, et al. 2019)
    • Steep topography (Broman et al. 2014; Kozakiewicz et al. 2019)
    • Areas with limited land development (Broman et al. 2014; Abouelezz et al. 2018)
      • Use vegetated or agricultural areas within larger urban areas (Young, Golla, Draper, et al. 2019)
  • Tend to avoid:
    • Roads (Broman et al. 2014; Poessel et al. 2014; Young, Golla, Draper, et al. 2019)
    • Urban areas (e.g., Tracey et al. 2013)
    • Large areas cultivated for agriculture (Kelly et al. 2016; Flores-Morales et al. 2019), but see Young et al. (2019)

Bobcat Distribution

Red square outlines extent of bobcat distribution

Bobcats are found from southern Canada to northern Mexico.

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet. Click here or on map for detailed distribution (IUCN).

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