Index of Species Information



AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Tesky, Julie L. 1995. Lynx rufus. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: 18 July 2013: DeGraaf, Richard M.; Rudis, Deborah D. 2001 citation corrected to DeGraaf, Richard M.; Yamasaki, Mariko. 2001. ABBREVIATION : LYRU COMMON NAMES : bobcat bay lynx TAXONOMY : The scientific name for bobcat is Lynx rufus (Schreber) [17,53,54,55]. Hall [17] recognizes 12 subspecies: Lynx rufus baileyi Merriam Lynx rufus californicus Mearns Lynx rufus escuinapae J. A. Allen Lynx rufus fasciatus Rafinesque Lynx rufus floridanus Rafinesque Lynx rufus gigas Bangs Lynx rufus oaxacensis Goodwin Lynx rufus pallescens Merriam Lynx rufus peninsularis Thomas Lynx rufus rufus Lynx rufus superiorensis Peterson and Downing Lynx rufus texensis Mearns Bobcats hybridize with lynx (Lynx canadensis) [7]. SYNONYMS : Felis rufus Schreber [52,56] ORDER : Carnivora CLASS : Mammal FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : The Mexican bobcat (Lynx rufus escuinapae) is listed as Endangered [39]. OTHER STATUS : Information on state- and province-level protection status of animals in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe, although recent changes in status may not be included.


GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Bobcats occur from southern Canada south almost throughout the contiguous United States to southern Mexico. They do not occur in most of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri. Bobcat range is gradually expanding northward in Canada as boreal forests become fragmented by farming, logging, and settlement [6,17]. The current distribution of the subspecies was not described in the literature. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White-red-jack pine FRES11 Spruce-fir FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak-pine FRES15 Oak-hickory FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood FRES18 Maple-beech-birch FRES19 Aspen-birch FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES22 Western white pine FRES23 Fir-spruce FRES24 Hemlock-Sitka spruce FRES25 Larch FRES26 Lodgepole pine FRES27 Redwood FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES29 Sagebrush FRES30 Desert shrub FRES31 Shinnery FRES32 Texas savanna FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon-juniper FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie FRES40 Desert grasslands FRES41 Wet grasslands FRES42 Annual grasslands FRES44 Alpine STATES :
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 7 Lower Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 10 Wyoming Basin 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 12 Colorado Plateau 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : Bobcats probably occur in most Kuchler plant associations. SAF COVER TYPES : Bobcats probably occur in most SAF cover types. SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : Bobcats probably occur in most SRM (rangeland) cover types. PLANT COMMUNITIES : Bobcats are found in a wide variety of plant communities including coniferous forest, deciduous forest, mixed forest, the Everglades, prairie and other grasslands, chaparral, sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) scrubland, creosotebush (Larrea tridentata) scrubland, and mesquite (Prosopis spp.) scrub [1]. Bobcats do show some plant community preferences. They commonly occur in areas with a mosaic of different plant communities and seral stages [4,7,51]. In Minnesota bobcats preferred areas of black spruce (Picea mariana), northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis), and balsam fir (Abies balsamea) interspersed with quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and lowland shrubs [4]. No significant seasonal shifts in habitat use occurred. Rollings [35] found that in Minnesota, bobcat winter habitat was primarily thick northern white-cedar or black spruce swamps. In New England, bobcats were frequently found in northern white-cedar swamps and black spruce thickets [12]. Bobcat habitat in Massachusetts was characterized by cliff areas, black spruce plantations, and eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)-hardwood communities [30]. Common tree and shrub species of bobcat habitat in the Intermountain West include manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus spp.), pinyon (Pinus spp.), sagebrush, and juniper (Juniperus spp.) [37]. In the Frank-Church River of No Return Wilderness, Idaho, bobcats selected Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)/mountain-mahogany (Cercoparus spp.) communities, but avoided Douglas-fir/wheatgrass communities. The latter communities lacked rocky terrain and mountain-mahogany cover for bobcats [49]. Bobcats in another Idaho study were found in areas dominated by big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) with nearby caves and sagebrush-Utah juniper (J. osteosperma) areas near volcanic outcroppings. Most of the preference for these habitats was accounted for by prey density and cover for hunting and resting [47]. In Fresno County, California, bobcats were most common from 2,001 to 4,003 feet (610-1,220 m) elevation, with the preferred cover types in the eastern portion of the county including woodland-grass, pine (Pinus spp.)-chaparral, and hardwood woodland [7].


TIMING OF MAJOR LIFE HISTORY EVENTS : Breeding season - Bobcats commonly breed in February and March. However, variations in the breeding season are influenced by latitude, longitude, altitude, climate, photoperiod, and perhaps prey availability. Bobcats breed from February through July in Alabama, peaking in March and April [7]. In Yellowstone National Park the peak of the breeding season is from January through early March [9]. In the Sierra Nevada bobcats breed from January through June, with breeding peaking from February through May [41]. One male generally mates with several females [9]. Age at first reproduction - Female bobcats are capable of breeding at 1 year of age. Males are sexually mature at 2 years of age [7,11]. Both sexes remain reproductively active throughout life [11]. Gestation/litter size - Gestation is about 62 days [6,7]. In Utah a majority of young are born in April or May [47], and in May and June in Wyoming [11]. Usually two to three kittens are produced per litter, although up to five kittens have been reported [9]. Generally, only one litter is produced per year [41]. The kittens are raised solely by their mother [9]. Development of young - Bobcats are born with their eyes closed. Their eyes open between 3 and 11 days after birth. Bobcats are weaned at 7 to 8 weeks of age, but remain with their mother until they disperse [7]. Dispersal of juveniles - Juvenile bobcats generally disperse during their first fall. In Michigan bobcat litters may not disperse until their first spring [7]. Activities - Bobcats are generally crepuscular. Zezulak [46] found that bobcat activity levels peaked at dawn and dusk in California. In another California study, bobcat activity levels differed seasonally. Bobcats were generally crepuscular during the winter, and more nocturnal during the spring [48]. Life span - In the wild, most bobcats live 2 to 5 years; some individuals live 15 years [9,11]. PREFERRED HABITAT : Bobcats are adapted to a wide variety of habitats including swamps, deserts, and mountain ranges [6,7]. Rollings [35] stated that prey abundance, protection from severe weather, availability of rest areas and cover, and freedom from human intrusion were the key factors in bobcat habitat selection in Minnesota. Typical bobcat habitat in the North is broken country including swamps, bogs, conifer stands, and rocky ledges. Ledges appear to be the most important terrain feature in bobcat habitat in the northern portion of the range, with the only satisfactory replacement being conifers in bogs and swamps. Courtship activities are often centered around ledges [7]. In Massachusetts bobcat courtship was invariably performed in the vicinity of rocky ledges. Specific habitat requirements for courtship have not been reported elsewhere [6]. In the South bobcats are common in mixed forest and agricultural areas that have a high proportion of early to mid-successional stages [6,7]. In the hardwood bottomlands of Louisiana, Hall and Newsom [18] found that mid-successional stages on cutover areas, characterized by saplings, vines, and dense briar palmetto (Serenoa spp.), were the centers of bobcat activity. In the West bobcats prefer rocky canyons at elevations from 4,593 to 6,890 feet (1,400-2,100 m) with ledges and areas of dense vegetation. In the southwestern and western United States, bobcats are adapted to even the driest deserts if shade is available [37]. Home range - Bobcat home range estimates vary from 0.23 square mile (0.6 sq km) for California to 78 square miles (201 sq km) for Minnesota. Females generally have smaller home ranges than males. The home ranges of male and female bobcats may overlap, but home ranges of females rarely overlap with each other. Seasonal range differences may also occur. Winter ranges of male bobcats in California were up to 41 percent smaller than summer ranges. Female bobcats showed reductions in their home range size up to 70 percent over the same period [7]. COVER REQUIREMENTS : Denning and resting cover - Habitat features such as thickets, stumps, logging debris, and various types of rock features serve as denning sites and resting areas for bobcats [6]. Rock piles or broken rocky ledges provide important den sites and shelter for bobcats, especially in the West. Rocky areas were the preferred den sites of bobcats in easteren Idaho [3]. In California small rocky areas were often used as denning and resting sites [48]. During periods of heavy rain or high temperatures, bobcats used these areas for shelter almost exclusively. Bailey [2] noted the importance of rock piles and caves for rearing young and for refuge in severe weather. In the northern part of the bobcat's range, where winters are often severe, bobcats may require underground dens to survive [3]. Bobcats also use brush piles, hollow trees, and logs as rest sites and dens. Bobcat rest areas have frequently been found under low-hanging conifer boughs [7]. Zezulak and Schwab [48] noted bobcats resting under bushes and next to fallen Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) in the Mojave Desert. In the relatively moderate climate of the Southeast, features such as thickets, hollow stumps, and logging debris offer adequate cover for both resting and denning [6]. Travel and loafing cover - Bottomland hardwoods are often used for loafing and travel, possibly because the closed canopy and dense midstory of these areas supply shade during periods of high temperatures [6]. Foraging cover - Bobcats often hunt in open to semiopen areas. Bobcat prey are generally less common in forested cover types than in shrub/grass-forb cover types. Within the shrub/grass-forb cover types, shrub patches or thickets are necessary cover for bobcat prey. Favorable environments for bobcat prey (e.g., cotton rats [Sigmodon spp.] and cottontail rabbits [Sylvilagus spp.]) in the Southeast are generally available on clearcuts and young (< 5-year) pine plantations [6,57]. FOOD HABITS : Bobcats are opportunistic and will attempt to take almost any prey available, including insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Mammalian prey, however, is often the most common prey in the bobcat diet. Bobcats most frequently kill animals weighing 1.5 to 12 pounds (700 g-5.5 kg) [7]. Cottontail rabbits appear to be the principal prey of bobcats throughout bobcat's range [6,7,38]. Primary exceptions occur from Minnesota to New England, where white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) increase in importance [6]. Bobcats in the Southeast rely heavily on two species, eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) and cotton rats, for food throughout the year [6]. Cotton rats may be more important than eastern cottontails from Florida to Louisiana. In the interior highlands of Arkansas, eastern fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) and eastern gray squirrels (S. carolinensis) are important foods. In the mountains of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, the woodland vole (Microtus pinetorum) and various species of birds are important bobcat prey [6]. In the West rodents, especially woodrats (Neotoma spp.), are often eaten [6,7]. PREDATORS : Bobcats are not commonly preyed upon. Kittens may be taken by foxes (Vulpes spp. and Urocyon spp.), owls (Strigidae), mountain lions (Felis concolor), coyotes (Canis latrans), and adult male bobcats. Bobcats may also be killed or injured by prey animals. Bobcats are hunted and trapped by humans [7]. MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : To enhance and maintain habitat quality for bobcats, managers should maintain a mosaic of cover types with early to mid-successional stages, maintain cover adjacent to preferred physical features (e.g., cliffs), and maintain vegetation in riparian areas and ridgelines to enhance dispersal [1]. Habitat management favoring bobcats is possible in areas managed for timber production. Generally, small mammal populations peak 1 to 3 years after clearcutting and planting and decrease sharply thereafter. Clearcutting "small" blocks of timber interspersed with forested areas provides good habitat for small mammals and therefore good foraging habitat for bobcats. Delaying the canopy closure of newly planted stands promotes small mammal abundance for longer periods. Canopy closure can be delayed in several ways, including increased spacing (to approximately 10 feet [3 m]) of original planting, and early and extensive thinning [6]. Response to human activities - Bobcats appear capable of dealing with moderate human influence on the environment. Their populations are stable in the United States, except in areas of intensive farming and dense human populations, such as in the Midwest and along the central Atlantic coast in Delaware and New Jersey. In Canada, bobcats are expanding their range into many areas that previously supported only lynx [7]. Bobcats often use recently logged areas and farms, because logging and farming practices often provide food and cover for prey species. Agricultural land that is so extensive as to eliminate rocky ledges, swamps, and forest tracts is not used by bobcats. Bobcats show little or no aversion to human dwellings or equipment; in fact, one bobcat frequently rested within 200 feet (61 m) of an occupied dwelling. Resting bobcats often respond to motor vehicles and logging activities by moving a short distance and resuming their rest [7]. Depredations - Bobcats occasionally prey upon livestock [7]. Gashwiler and others [16] allege that bobcats often hunt around lambing grounds, but domestic sheep remains were found in only 1 of 53 bobcat stomachs. Only 1 of 222 ewe losses to predators in 1973 through 1975 in Idaho was attributed to a bobcat [7].


DIRECT FIRE EFFECTS ON ANIMALS : Bobcats are very mobile and can probably escape most fires. There are no reports of direct bobcat mortality due to fire [32]. Howard and others [22] saw a bobcat leaving burning brush in California, but found no animals that had been injured or killed by the fire. HABITAT RELATED FIRE EFFECTS : Fire may improve the foraging habitat and prey base of bobcats. Fires that create a mosaic of burned and unburned areas including some open areas and some cover are probably most beneficial to bobcats. Fires that reduce vegetation height and create open areas probably increase hunting efficiency. Surface fires often open substrates for quieter stalking and easier capture of prey than can occur in closed forests [26]. Annual winter burning on a northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) plantation may have improved stalking conditions for bobcats which resulted in an increase in the local bobcat population [31]. In California bobcats feed in recent (1-year-old) chaparral burns and young (2- to 3-year-old) chaparral [28]. Longhurst [28] observed that at the Hopland Field Station in California, populations of bobcats increased in young to intermediate aged chaparral interspersed with grassland. Bobcat populations showed a downward trend in both mature chaparral (10 years old or more) and extensive grasslands. Periodic fire helps to maintain habitat for many bobcat prey. Several studies indicate that many small mammal populations increase rapidly subsequent to fire in response to increased food availability [20,21,26]. Cotton rats often leave burned areas immediately after fire, but they return to burned areas to forage on green vegetation as the season progresses. Cotton rats experience greater weight gains in burned than unburned areas. Komarek [50] reported effects of fire exclusion on cotton rats and other grassland rodents in pine woods which had previously been burned annually. After 4 years the cotton rat population had decreased sharply. Fire at 3-year intervals would provide optimum habitat for cotton rats as long as adequate amounts of unburned areas were available as escape cover. Cottontail rabbit responses to fire are apparently similar to those of the cotton rat [21]. Fire often improves hare and rabbit forage quality and quantity for two or more growing seasons [20,26]. Hill [20] concluded that burning in pine plantations in the Southeast at intervals longer than 2 years would be less beneficial to rabbits and hares than annual burns, but any fire is better for these species than fire exclusion. FIRE USE : Prescribed burning that favors small mammals by creating ecotones and different age classes of vegetation would increase the prey base for bobcats and make hunting easier for them by opening up the habitat [33]. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


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