Adirondack Wildlife Series: Bobcat

Bobcat (Lynx Rufus)

Roughly twice the size of a normal housecat, the wild bobcat is most distinguishable by its long tufts of fur along its cheeks and black-tipped ears.  This adorable but not-to-be-trifled-with feline is often mistaken for the Canadian Lynx.  The two however can be distinguished by the disproportionately large paws and black-tipped tail characteristic of the lynx, where the bobcat has paws more proportionate to its body size and black spots along its tail rather than covering its tip.

Male bobcats average about 21 pounds, while females average around 14 and generally males are about a third larger than females in body mass.  Bobcats range in length between 30 and 34 inches, with tails usually 5 to 6 inches.  The hind legs of a bobcat are longer then their front legs giving them a bobbing effect when they run, but the bobcat name actually comes from its black tipped short stubby tail.

Grayish or “buffy brown” fur on the upper parts of the body is characteristic of the bobcat, with dark spots present over much of the body. They are good excellent climbers, and despite what most people think when it comes to “Cats”, the bobcat can and will swim if necessary, although their preference is to avoid water.

Habitat

The bobcat’s range is truly vast, covering southern Canada, most of the United States and even on south into Mexico.  There are over 12 sub-species of bobcat in North America, and residents of our neck of the woods, including the Adirondacks & Northern New York, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, will most likely see rufus gigas (Bangs).

For habitat, the bobcat prefers shrubby fields, wooded farmland, bogs or swamps with a lot of evergreen trees, mixed and deciduous forests with clearings and rocky ledges, essentially places where they can find good refuge and protection.

Behavior

Bobcats are, of course, carnivorous, and are known to feed on small to medium-sized animals such as white-tailed deer, rabbit, wild hare, squirrels, beavers, opossums, and the like.  On rare occasion however, this agile creature has also been observed to eat fruit.

The bobcat is mainly nocturnal and crepuscular, which means active at twilight, and is active during all seasons of the year, including our harsh Adirondack winters!  They have few – if any – natural predators as adults.  Bobcat Kittens however can be vulnerable to owls, foxes, and coyotes.

Observation

As beautiful a creature as they are – and they do capture the imagination certainly – experts remind us that bobcats are feral animals and therefore are best appreciated from a distance.  If you consider the sharp claws, teeth and strength of your domestic housecat, imagine adding 10lbs of muscle, longer claws , bigger teeth and explosive reflexes to your cat and you can imagine how powerful and dangerous a bobcat really is.

The bobcat is part of the vast array of Adirondack wildlife, is one of the Adirondacks’ great wild kingdom that contribute enormously to our natural beauty. If you have a story to tell about an encounter with a wild bobcat, post it here in our comments section or email photos to photos@sacandagalife.com!

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