Wild Profile: Meet the bobcat

An adult bobcat against a winter background By Jack Bell Photography/Shutterstock

Do you know the difference between the bobcat and the Canada lynx? Well, you will soon—read on. The lynx and the bobcat are cousins, and close enough genetically that they can successfully interbreed (though it’s rare). But bobcats are smaller, with shorter ears tufts, smaller paws, and a slightly longer—but still “bobbed”—tail. The most easy-to-see difference between the two, though, may be their colour. The bobcat has spotted orangey-brown fur; the lynx is typically lighter, often closer to uniformly grey.

Meet the Canada lynx

The bobcat’s smallish size—it’s about twice as big as a house cat—doesn’t stop it from being a ferocious hunter, as long as the prey isn’t too big. Along with birds, rabbits, foxes, and the occasional lizard, they’ll take down young deer and skunks (brave!). Bobcats and lynx overlap in habitat, and can compete for food. But unlike the Canada lynx’s range, which is shrinking, its cousin’s has been expanding. Good thing it isn’t too picky about food; these little carnivores will feed on carrion—or even their own cubs—if they have to.

Are bobcats dangerous?

The bobcat is “crepuscular”—that is, most active during twilight. Even though the cats’ territory can range close to human populations, attacks (or even encounters) are rare. Like cougars, these kitties are reclusive and would rather avoid people. They’re more likely to be a danger to outdoor cats or dogs which owners leave unattended. (So don’t do that if you’ve seen one near your cottage. The same goes for cougars and Canada lynx, for that matter.)

Bobcat pairs hook up in winter, with Mamas giving birth roughly two months later, to up to six kittens. By one month, the babies are old enough to wander (briefly) outside the den. By two months, they’re ready to start eating meat. And when fall rolls around? The kittens are ready to hunt. Mommy taught them well!

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