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Mammals

Bobcat

bobcat

Felis rufus

Distribution:

North America, from southern Canada to southern Mexico.

Habitat:

Forests, mountainous areas, semi-deserts, brush land, and even the suburbs.

Diet:

Mainly rabbits and hares, but also other smaller game.

Gestation:

A litter of one to four, but sometimes up to six, kittens is born after a gestation of 50 - 70 days.

Longevity:

13 years in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity.

Predators:

Bobcat kittens are preyed upon by foxes, coyotes and large owls. Humans are the only threat to adult bobcats.

Conservation status::

Least concern.

General:

The distinguishing feature of the bobcat is a small bobbed tail, 10 to 18cm long with a black tip. Much like their relative, the Canada lynx, the bobcat has pointed tufts on its ears, only smaller and sometimes barely visible. An adult bobcat can grow up to around a metre in length and weigh up to approximately 15 kg. Their size depends on where they live with northern bobcats tending to be larger than those at the southern end of the distribution. The range of the bobcat is the largest of all native North American cats.

Bobcats are elusive, nocturnal and generally solitary. Territory sizes vary. They can be anything from less than 10 to several hundred square kilometres. Male territories are large and tend to overlap, but females never share their smaller territories with each other.

Although only roughly twice the size of the average housecat, the bobcat can kill prey much larger than itself, including deer and sheep. It stalks its prey quietly and stealthily, leaping on it from up to 3 metres away. A kitten starts learning to hunt at 5 months old and is evicted from its mother's territory at 8-11 months.

The colour of the bobcat's fur is generally brown, tending towards grey, red or yellow. It is for this beautiful spotted and streaked fur that bobcats are trapped by humans as it is popular in the fur trade. Farmers will also kill the bobcat, seeing it as a menace to their livestock. Perhaps the biggest threat to the bobcat is habitat loss. Despite these dangers, the number of bobcats in the U.S appears to be stable.

At Hamilton Zoo:

We have one male bobcat living at the Zoo. His name is Sikanni and he was born 1 January 2001.