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Bobcat (Lynx rufus) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Population estimates

  • U.S. total population
    • 2.3 to 3.6 million individuals (Kelly et al. 2016)
  • Global population trend
    • Stable (Kelly et al. 2016)
  • Considered abundant and adaptable (Anderson 1987; Woolf and Hurbert Jr 1998), though can be sensitive to human presence (Jennings 2017)
  • Majority of North American populations have increased since the late 1990s (Roberts and Crimmins 2010; Kelly et al. 2016)
    • Many other populations stable (Woolf and Hurbert Jr 1998; Roberts and Crimmins 2010)
  • Populations in U.S. Midwest states have rebounded since extirpation in early 1900s (Kelly et al. 2016)
  • Declines reported in Florida, especially southern Florida (Kelly et al. 2016)
    • Strong predation pressure on bobcats by invasive Burmese python (Dorcas et al. 2012)
  • Most populations in Canada stable (Kelly et al. 2016)
  • Populations in Mexico not well studied (Kelly et al. 2016)

Population structure

  • Genetically distinct western and eastern U.S. populations (Reding et al. 2012; also see Croteau et al. 2012)
    • Isolated during Pleistocene, when Great Plains covered by ice
      • Great Plains region later recolonized, as populations converged
  • Additional regional structuring (e.g., Great Lakes, Pacific Northwest) where populations founded by a small number of individuals (Millions and Swanson 2007; Reding et al. 2012)
  • Urbanization also causes population fragmentation at city or regional scales (Lee et al. 2012; Serieys et al. 2015; Kozakiewicz et al. 2019)

Conservation Status


  • Least Concern (2016 assessment) (Kelly et al. 2016)
    • Abundant
    • Widely distributed
  • Previous assessments (Kelly et al. 2016)
    • 2008: Least Concern
    • 2002: Least Concern
    • 1996: Lower risk/least concern


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Not listed (ECOS 2020)

Threats to Survival


  • Fur trade
    • Legally hunted in 38 U.S. states and 7 Canadian provinces (Kelly et al. 2016; Elbroch et al. 2017)
      • Pelts used mainly for leather and decorative parts of clothing (Hall 1981)
    • Take managed in most areas via bag limits, quotas, or restrictions on season or hunting method (Woolf and Hurbert Jr 1998; Jennings 2017)
    • Bobcats heavily harvested and traded (Nowell and Jackson 1996)
      • Increasing U.S. exports may be a conservation concern (Kelly et al. 2016)
      • International demand rose sharply during mid-1970s, following adoption of CITES trade restrictions on other wild cats (Rolley 1985, as cited by Larivière and Walton 1997; Nowell and Jackson 1996; Woolf and Hurbert Jr 1998)
      • High prices persisted into 2010s (Knudson 2016; Kelly et al. 2016)
        • Driven by demand in Europe, China, and Russia
  • Sport hunting
    • Small number of bobcats taken (Jackson 1961)
    • Meat sometimes consumed (Hall 1981)

Habitat loss and fragmentation

  • Bobcats fairly resilient to human disturbance: urbanization, land development, road construction, deforestation (e.g., Ordeñana et al. 2010; Kelly et al. 2016; Jennings 2017; Flores-Morales et al. 2019)
    • Adapt to low-density developments well (Tracey et al. 2013; Kelly et al. 2016; Carroll 2019)
    • May associate with recreational trails (e.g., Kays et al. 2017)
  • Large agricultural and dense urban areas inhibit dispersal (Hughes et al. 2019)
    • Roads in urbanized areas constrain movements and can increase mortality (e.g., Riley et al. 2006; Ruell et al. 2012; Poessel et al. 2014)
    • Impacted by loss of stream habitats, which often act as movement corridors (Kozakiewicz et al. 2019)
  • Barriers to population connectivity can result in population isolation (Riley et al. 2003; Croteau et al. 2012; Lee et al. 2012; Ruell et al. 2012) and reduced genetic diversity (Carroll et al. 2019)


  • Toxic chemicals used to control rodent populations can cause high bobcat mortality (observed in southern California) (e.g., Riley et al. 2003; Riley et al. 2007; Serieys et al. 2013)
    • Can contribute to population bottlenecks (via disease outbreaks; e.g., mange), especially in urban areas (Riley et al. 2007; Serieys et al. 2015)
  • In Mexico, bobcats poisoned (incidentally from ingesting poisoned rodents) and used in traditional medicine (Kelly et al. 2016)
  • Also see "Pollution"

Management Actions


  • Strict harvesting regulations can contribute to population rebound (Carroll et al. 2019)

Habitat stewardship

  • Likely found within nearly all protected areas within its range (Nowell and Jackson 1996)
  • Efforts to promote habitat connectivity benefit bobcat populations (Abouelezz et al. 2018; Bencin et al. 2019)
    • Construction of road-crossing structures, such as culverts or passageways under roads (e.g., Alonso et al. 2014)

Economic value

  • High ecotourism value (e.g., North American national parks) (Elbroch et al. 2017)


  • Reintroduction efforts can be re-establish populations (e.g., Diefenbach et al. 2015)

Populations Stable or Increasing

Two bobcats, one walking on sand and tree branch

Most bobcat populations have increased since the late 1990s.

They are legally hunted in 38 U.S. states and 7 Canadian provinces.

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

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