Scientific Name: Felis rufus


The bobcat is a familiar animal, but it is secretive and seldom seen. The animals are 32–37 inches long with a tail about 6 inches in length. Bobcats are similar in appearance to their cousin, the lynx. Indeed, they are especially difficult to distinguish in the Southern Rockies, where the local bobcat is large and pale in color (several points of contrast are provided in the profile of the lynx). Hasty observers sometimes confuse mountain lion kittens — which are spotted — with bobcats or lynx, but that is a careless error because young cougars have distinctly long tails.


Bobcats occur widely in North America, from southern Canada to central Mexico, and they range statewide in Colorado.


They are most abundant in foothills, canyons, mesas, and plateaus, where brush and woodland provide suitable habitat. Bobcats tend to avoid open prairies, tundra, heavy sub-alpine timber, and wetlands.


The staple fare of bobcats is rabbits. Like other native cats they hunt by stealth rather than engaging in long chases. When rabbits are scarce, bobcats will eat mice, voles and birds. They are active throughout the year.


Bobcats breed in late winter and spring and produce a single litter, typically around three young, each year after a gestation period of about 10 weeks. The nursery is a simple natural shelter – under a rock or log. The young are weaned at about 8 weeks of age.


By David M. Armstrong Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Environmental Studies Program, University Museum of Natural History University of Colorado-Boulder

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