The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is one of the most common wild cats in Washington State. Bobcats are in the Felidae family of mammals. This Washington wild cat is a solitary animal; male and female bobcats only come together for mating purposes. These wild cats are also carnivorous, meaning they are meat eaters. A bobcat's diet consists of rabbits, small rodents, birds and lizards.
Slightly larger than domestic housecats, bobcats are the smallest of Washington's wild feline species. Male bobcats weigh between 20 and 30 pounds and are nearly 3 feet long. Females are slightly smaller at approximately 20 pounds and 2.5 feet long. Bobcats receive their name from their short, bobbed-shaped tails. Both male and female bobcats have yellow or red fur with black spots; the bobcat's tail has black fur at its tip. Other physical descriptions are tufted ears and white whiskers.
Range and Habitat
The bobcat has a statewide range in Washington. Bobcats rely on rocky cliffs and outcroppings for mating and refuges. In forest environments, bobcats use underbrush and large logs for shelter. It is also common to see bobcats in open fields and near agricultural areas. Bobcats in western Washington have smaller home range sizes -- or square-mileage per bobcat -- than species in the eastern region of the state. Occasionally male bobcats mate with domestic cats, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The bobcat's closest living relative is the lynx, Lynx canadensis. In Washington, lynxes are usually found in the state's northern mountain ranges. This feline has long tufts on its ear and, similar to the bobcat, has a short bobbed tail. Lynxes are generally larger than bobcats, with plain grayish coats. Also known as cougars, the mountain lion, Puma concolor, is a distant relative of the bobcat. Mountain lions live throughout the state, except for areas within the Columbia River Basin. This feline is Washington's largest wild cat; males grow up to 8 feet in length. Contrary to the bobcat and lynx, mountain lions have long tails of 2 to 3 feet.
Bobcats have abundant populations in Washington and are not considered threatened or endangered. The bobcat is a species of least concern, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List. The IUCN Red List also states potential conservation threats for bobcats are habitat loss and overhunting. Washington State allows bobcat hunting from September to mid-March. Hunters must place bobcat pelts within a plastic seal. Sportsmen may not use dogs when hunting bobcats.
- The University of Washington -- Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture: Mammals of Washington - Carnivora
- Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Living with Wildlife -- Bobcats; Russel Link; 2007
- Defenders of Wildlife: Lynx
- Abundant Wildlife Society of North America; Mountain Lion Fact Sheet; T.R. Mader; 1995
- International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List: Lynx Rufus
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images