The most common wildcat in North America, the bobcat is named for its short, bobbed tail. They are medium-sized cats and are slightly smaller but similar in appearance to their cousin, the lynx. Their coats vary in color from shades of beige to brown fur with spotted or lined markings in dark brown or black. Bobcats are one of those animals that, when seen by residents, they prompt a lot of phone calls to the Wildlife Hotline. The mere sight of this animal is so out of the ordinary that people panic when they spot one. We assure you though, bobcats are not going to attack you or your children unprovoked. They are actually very shy animals and stay far away from people if they can help it.
They primarily eat rabbits, mice, rats, squirrel, and other small mammals. However, they’ve been known to also eat wild turkeys, deer, and domestic cats. Their population is greatest towards the bootheel of Missouri and in the Ozarks, but we are seeing them more and more in suburban areas.
How to Handle Encounters with Bobcats
The important thing to remember is to stay back. If a bobcat is nearby, just quietly back away and take your pets inside. Do not let your cat or dog run the neighborhood or even your yard unattended. The bobcat will move on very quickly, and should not pose any sort of problem. Occasionally, we humans will wander towards an area where a bobcat has a fresh kill hidden. In those cases, the cat will act defensively, and show his teeth, snarl at you, and block your path to walk forward. If this happens to you, turn around and walk in the other direction. The cat should not follow you as long as you are going in the opposite direction of whatever he is gaurding. As soon as the cats are finished eating whatever it is, they will move on to a new area. Give them a few days in case it is a large deer sized animal, and they should be gone. If this happens to you in a public place, please call the hotline at 1-855-WILD-HELP so that we can dispatch the proper authorities to cordon off the area the bobcats are protecting, so that no one gets hurt.
There’s a bobcat in the tree in front of my house and it won’t leave!
From time to time bobcats will climb into a tree and just kind of lie down on a large branch, usually very high up. This behavior is commonly exhibited by kittens, but has also been reported in adult bobcats as well. This is a dangerous situation. Stay inside your home and call your local animal control office, or the hotline @ 636-492-1610 to find the closest office to contact. We have not had reports of bobcat attacks in these situations, and we don’t expect to. However, when it comes to an animals with the kind of power that a bobcat posseses, we would much rather err on the side of caution. Stay away from the animal, stay indoors, take pets indoors, and call the authorities. Better safe than sorry!
We found a baby bobcat!
Bobcats are nocturnal and diurnal. There is very little social interaction between individuals, who mark territories with fecal matter and urine. Within their ranges, they can travel between 3 and 7 miles nightly, inspecting many objects as they go. Mating begins in December and can extend into June, with the peak in March. Litters of usually 2 to 3 kittens are born after 50 to 70 days, most in May and June. Weaning occurs after two months, and young stay with the female until fall or later.
Momma Bobcats are EXTREMELY protective of their young. If you think you see a baby bobcat, do NOT touch it or pick it up! Only allow an experienced animal handler to approach or handle the kitten. Special warning – Bobcat kittens are absolutely adorable. They look like normal kittens, soft and cuddly, and very sweet. This is NOT how they will act when you pick them up!! If the kitten is young enough, she might not fight you, or bite, but she will still scratch you, struggle, and more importantly – she will make noise which is sure to get Mom’s attention. You do NOT want to start a fight with a Momma Bobcat. You will not win.
If you see a bobcat kitten, or litter of kittens, that seem abandoned, please call the wildlife hotline @ 636-492-1610 for further assistance.
A final note …
We are not trying to scare you to death or make you hate bobcats. They are amazingly beautiful, majestic animals that play and important role in the wildlife community. We are only trying to remind the public to keep your distance when it comes to a sizeable predator such as a bobcat. They can be unpredictable and dangerous, and we don’t want anyone getting hurt.
< style=”text-align: center;”>If you have any other questions concerning bobcats, please feel free to contact us at the hotline anytime and a wildlife specialist would be happy to assist you. 1-855-WILD-HELP.