The bobcat is an adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, as well as semidesert, urban edge, forest edges, and swampland environments. It remains in some of its original range, but local populations are vulnerable to extirpation by coyotes and domestic animals. Bobcats, sometimes called wildcats, are roughly twice as big as the average housecat. They have long legs, large paws, and tufted ears similar to those of their larger relative, the Canada lynx. Most bobcats are brown or brownish red with a white underbelly and short, black-tipped tail. The cat is named for its tail, which appears to be cut or “bobbed.”
Fierce hunters, bobcats can kill prey much bigger than themselves, but usually eat rabbits, birds, mice, squirrels, and other smaller game. The bobcat hunts by stealth, but delivers a deathblow with a leaping pounce that can cover 10 feet (3 meters).
With a gray to brown coat, whiskered face, and black-tufted ears, the bobcat resembles the other species of the mid-sized Lynx genus. It is smaller on average than the Canada lynx, with which it shares parts of its range, but is about twice as large as the domestic cat. It has distinctive black bars on its forelegs and a black-tipped, stubby tail, from which it derives its name.
The bobcat is crepuscular. It keeps on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight, and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise. Each night it will move from 2 to 7 mi (3.2 to 11.3 km) along its habitual route. This behavior may vary seasonally, as bobcats become more diurnal during fall and winter in response to the activity of their prey, which are more active during the day in colder months.
Though the bobcat prefers rabbits and hares, it will hunt anything from insects, chickens, geese and other birds and small rodentsto deer. Prey selection depends on location and habitat, season, and abundance. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary, although with some overlap in home ranges. It uses several methods to mark its territorial boundaries, including claw marks and deposits of urine or feces. The bobcat breeds from winter into spring and has a gestation period of about two months.