STATUS: Common statewide in a wide array of habitats. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: The bobcat (Felis rufus) is a medium size cat that is reddish brown to a smoky gray in color with spots or streaks of black along the back and sides. The belly is white with black spots. Unlike most cats, bobcats have a very short tail that is white on the underside with a black tip. The ears have black tufts and the fur along the side of the face hangs down as if it was wearing sideburns. Bobcats have large eyes with elliptical pupils that give it great eyesight.
DISTRIBUTION: Felis rufus is common in Alabama and throughout the United States. Bobcats are mainly nocturnal animals but can be seen feeding along wood lines or agricultural fields in the early morning or late afternoon before dark.
HABITAT: Bobcats can be found inhabiting a variety of habitats such as heavily wooded uplands, bottomland forest, brushy areas, swamps and semi-open farmland but prefer rocky outcrops and canyons.
FEEDING HABITS: Bobcats are solitary animals and live a secret life. They are an elusive animal to see even where populations are high. Seldom seen during the daylight hours, bobcats do most of their hunting at night. Bobcats are carnivores that feed primarily on rabbits and other small mammals such as rats, mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and voles. They will occasionally feed on deer, mostly carrion, during the deer hunting season. Other food sources may include opossum, raccoon, skunk, birds and snakes.
LIFE HISTORY AND ECOLOGY: Breeding begins in mid-winter through spring with peak breeding in December to late February. Females will construct a nest of dead leaves, moss and dried grass under a large rock ledge, in a hollow tree or log and in holes under roots of trees. After a gestation period of 62 days, females will have a litter of one to six kittens (with an average of two or three) that are blind and furred. Kittens are weaned about two months after birth. Both parents feed and care for the kittens while they are still in the den. Kittens will stay with the female until the female mates and becomes pregnant again. Females come into heat between their first and second year and males are capable of breeding in their second year.
John A. Sealander and Gary A. Heidt. 1990. Arkansas Mammals. The University of Arkansas Press, Fayetteville London. 238pp.
AUTHOR: Phil Miller, Wildlife Biologist, Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries