The Bobcat, smallest of the four lynx species, is the most abundant wild cat in North America. It’s an agile hunter, able to chase prey at speeds of up to 50 kilometres an hour for short distances, but will also use hunting strategies such as stalking and ambushing. Like other wild cats, it preys on rodents, rabbits and hares, but will also hunt insects, fish, birds and small deer. Because of its preferred prey, the Bobcat is vital for controlling pest populations of small mammals.
Like most cats, the Bobcat is generally solitary in nature and territorial. It marks its territory with claw marks and urine or faeces. Due to its elusive, predatory nature it features in Native American stories and folklore of European settlers. One Indigenous tale explains that the Bobcat got its spots after its trapped prey, a wily rabbit, persuaded the cat to build a fire, only to have flying embers singe its fur. The rabbit got away.
Bobcats are hunted by humans for both sport and fur. However, they breed every year and mature quickly, so the regulated annual harvest quota of twenty per cent of the population remains sustainable. This is in stark contrast to its relative the Iberian Lynx (Lynx paradinus), the world’s most endangered cat species with less than 150 individuals left in the wild.
Distribution: southern Canada, USA and Mexico
Conservation status: Least Concern
Evolutionary distinctiveness: Low