Scientific name: Lynx rufus
Claim to fame: Bobcats are one of the animals included in the state’s trapping season (also known as furbearer season). This season runs from November 15 through Jan. 31 for most species (see Wildlife Code of Missouri for details). As predators and scavengers, bobcats play an important role in the wildlife community.
Species status: Bobcats are found throughout Missouri and in most parts of the United States. In 1977, the Missouri Department of Conservation closed hunting and trapping of bobcats due to a heavy harvest of the species. In 1980, bobcats were once again included in the state’s trapping season and have been ever since. Recent surveys indicate bobcat populations are either stable or increasing throughout much of Missouri and most other regions of their North American range.
First discovered: The first scientific description of the bobcat was written by the German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel Schreber in 1777.
Family matters: The bobcat belongs to the mammal family Felidae, which includes all wild and domestic cats.
Length: up to 50 inches
Diet: Studies have shown rabbits are one of the main food items for bobcats (67 percent of their diet). Small mammals, birds and reptiles make up most of the remainder of the animal’s diet. Bobcats are sometimes portrayed as killers of poultry and other domestic animals (calves, foals, etc.), but studies indicate livestock and poultry comprise a relatively small part of a bobcat’s diet.
Weight: up to 50 pounds
Distinguishing characteristics: Bobcats are yellowish to reddish-brown and streaked and/or spotted with black. Two of a bobcat’s most distinguishing characteristics are its namesake trait — a short “bobbed” tail — and the tufts of hair that top the ears. Bobcats are relatively common throughout southwest Missouri, but are not frequently seen because they are nocturnal and secretive. Outside of mating season in winter and spring, there is little social interaction between individual bobcats. This lack of contact is apparently achieved by marking home ranges with solid fecal material and urine. These scents serve to prevent encounters of resident individuals and to notify transient bobcats that the range is occupied.
Life span: In captivity, bobcats have been known to live up to 25 years. However, in the wild, about half of that age (around 12 years) is probably a more accurate life span.
Habitat: Bobcats live in heavy forest cover, preferring timber that has much underbrush and areas where there are clearings or rocky outcrops.
Life cycle: Bobcat kittens are born from May to mid-June. At birth, they have spotted fur and sharp claws. Their eyes open at nine to 11 days. Weaning occurs around two months. Young bobcats stay with their mothers until fall or even later. Females mate when they are one or two years of age, but males do not breed until they are two years of age.