A bobcat is a wild feline with yellow or reddish-brown fur and a white belly. Black spots or streaks run throughout the bobcat’s coat. A bobcat has tufted ears, large tufts of fur on its cheeks, long legs, and a short “bobbed” tail, which gives the cat its name.
A bobcat is roughly twice as big as the average house cat, weighing between 11 and 30 pounds (5-14 kg). Bobcats measure between 26 and 41 inches (66-104 cm) in length. Males are slightly larger than females.
Bobcats are expert predators which have several adaptations that help them to catch their prey.
- Bobcats’ long legs allow them to be excellent climbers.
- The bobcat’s spotted coat provides excellent camouflage, allowing the animal to hide from its prey until it is ready to pounce.
- Bobcats have razor-sharp claws which can be retracted into the paw pads to keep them from dulling when not being used for pouncing, climbing, or self-defense.
- A Bobcat’s sharp pointed teeth can rip and tear meat into small pieces.
Bobcats are carnivores (meat-eaters) which can kill prey that is much larger than themselves, including deer. Their normal diet consists of smaller animals such as squirrels, rabbits, mice, voles, and birds.
Bobcats breed from January through June, with most breeding occurring in February and March. Females raise their young in a den. A litter consists of between one and six kittens (average two or three), which are born after a 60-day gestation. The kittens’ eyes open when they are 9-11 days old, and they live with their mother for 9-12 months before leaving the den to hunt on their own.
Bobcats seem to prefer forested areas with lots of vegetation but can live in many different types of habitats, such as swamps, mountains and deserts. They are nocturnal and generally solitary.
A bobcat can live 10-12 years in the wild.
Bobcats were common throughout Illinois when European settlers arrived, but their numbers then decreased dramatically due to hunting and loss of habitat. By 1977, the bobcat’s population had declined so much that it was designated a threatened species by the state of Illinois. Because of its protected status which led to habitat restoration and a moratorium on hunting, the Illinois bobcat population began increasing during the 1990s, and in 1999 bobcats were removed from the threatened species list. Bobcats are now found throughout the state, although they are most common in southern Illinois. Because they are nocturnal and prefer remote areas, bobcats have relatively few interactions with humans.