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Montana Field Guides

Bobcat - Lynx rufus

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Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:
FWP Conservation Tier: 3


 

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General Description
The Bobcat is about twice the size of a domestic cat and is the smallest of our native cats. Individuals exhibit considerable variation in color. Base coloration can be light gray, yellowish-brown, buff, brown, or reddish-brown. Under-parts and inside of legs are white with black or dark brown spots. Facial fur is often streaked with black. Dorsal surfaces of the ears are black with a prominent white spot. Short tuft of black hair is present on the ears. This cat has a short tail, black only on the upper portion of the tip. Bobcat fur is short, dense, and soft. Retractile claws. Total length: 28 to 37 inches. Weight: 15 to 35 pounds.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Differs from Canada Lynx: Bobcat paws are much smaller than, and lack large furry pads characteristic of, Canada Lynx. Bobcats also have shorter legs. Canada Lynx has black color all the way around the tail tip. Differs from other cats with short tail.

General Distribution
Montana Range



Western Hemisphere Range

 


Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 13906

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Records associated with a range of dates are excluded from time charts)



Migration
Non-migratory. Sometimes extensive movements, e.g. juvenile ranges of 222.1 sq. km (Brainerd 1985).

Habitat
Utilizes wide variety of habitats; known to be an animal of "patchy" country. Prefers rimrock and grassland/shrubland areas. Often found in areas with dense understory vegetation and high prey densities. Natural rocky areas are preferred den sites. May be active during all hours but is primarily nocturnal. Solitary animal that is difficult to observe in the wild. In central MT, selected for cover types (52+% canopy cover) corrected with high prey densities (Knowles 1981). In western MT, den sites within caves, between boulders, in hollow logs, or abandoned mine shafts (Brainerd 1985).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Snowshoe Hares and jack rabbits are the most common prey. Also feeds heavily on medium-sized rodents. Will eat carrion.

Ecology
In western MT, annual average home ranges (AD): females=58.6 sq km, males=79.0 sq km. North-central MT, adult male=83.3 sq km. Reproducing females exhibit reduced movements. Density estimated 1 adult/49.8 sq km in central MT (Brainerd 1985, Knowles 1981).

Reproductive Characteristics
Usually mates during spring. Litter size averages from two to four. Gestation 50 to 60 days. Young born May through June. Litter size 1 to 6, rarely over 4, averages 2.69 young/litter. Yearling pregnancy rate 39.4%, adult pregnancy rate 89.6%. No significant differences detected between litter sizes or ovulation rates in eastern or western Montana (Brainerd 1985).

References
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View WorldCat Record   View Online Publication
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    • Albert, S. W. 1981. Morphological variation in bobcats of northwest America. M.S. thesis. Univ. of Mont., Missoula. 100 pp.
    • Brainerd, S. M. 1985. Reproductive ecology of bobcats and lynx in western Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 85 p.
    • Chapman, J. A., and G. A. Feldhamer, editors. 1982. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management, and economics. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
    • Cross, James, and Richard P. Weckwerth, 1977, Upland Game Bird (and Fur Survey) Inventory. Wildlife Investigations, Region One. W-130- R-8, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1976 - June 30, 1977.
    • Cross, James, and Richard P. Weckwerth, 1978, Upland Game Bird (and Fur Survey) Inventory. Wildlife Investigations, Region One. W-130- R-9, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1977 - June 30, 1978.
    • Cross, James, and Richard P. Weckwerth, 1982, Upland Game Bird (and Fur Survey) Inventory. Wildlife Investigations, Region One. W-130- R-13, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1981 - June 30, 1982.
    • Cross, James, and Richard P. Weckwerth, 1983, Upland Game Bird (and Fur Survey) Inventory. Wildlife Investigations, Region One. W-130- R-14, Job No. II-1, July 1, 1982 - June 30, 1983.
    • Decker Coal Co., 1981, Wildlife survey. July 7, 1981. In North Decker 5-Year Permit Application. Vol. III. Rule 26.4.304(12-14).
    • Fjell, Alan K., 1986, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1985 field season. March 1986.
    • Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan, compilers., 1984, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1983 field season. February 1984.
    • Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1983, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1982 field season. May 1983.
    • Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1985, Peabody Coal Company Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1984 field season. February 1985.
    • Fjell, Alan K., and Brian R. Mahan., 1987, Big Sky Mine, Rosebud County, MT. Wildlife monitoring report: 1986 field season. April 1987.
    • Foresman, K. R. 2001. The wild mammals of Montana. American Society of Mammologists, Special Publication Number 12. Lawrence, KS. 278 p.
    • Fuller, T. K., W. E. Berg and D. W. Kuehn. 1985. Bobcat home range size and daytime cover-type use in northcentral Minnesota. J. Mammal. 66:568-571.
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    • Giddings, B. 1988. Prairie bobcats. Montana Outdoors, Mar./Apr.
    • Giddings, B., G. L. Risdahl and L. R. Irby. 1990. Bobcat habitat use in southeastern Montana during periods of high and low lagomorph abundance. Prairie Nat. 22:249-258.
    • Giddings, Brian., 1986, Ecology of the bobcat in a prairie rangeland-agricultural environment in eastern Montana.
    • Hash, Howard S., 1981, Ecology of the bobcat in a coniferous forest environment in western Montana. Statewide Wildlife Research. Furbearing Mammal Studies. W-120-R-12(5894) II FB-2.0 1. September 1, 1981.
    • Hoffmann, R. S. and D. L. Pattie. 1968. A guide to Montana mammals: identification, habitat, distribution, and abundance. University of Montana, Missoula. 133 p.
    • Humphris, Michael., 1993, Wildlife Monitoring Report. Spring Creek Coal Company 1993 Mining Annual Report. Appendix I. April 11, 1993.
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    • Knapp, Stephen, and Bernie Hildebrand, 1984, Upland Game Bird and Fur Surveys and Inventory - Region 7. Statewide Wildlife Survey & Inventory. W-130-R-15, II-7, July 1, 1983 - June 30, 1984.
    • Knapp, Steven, and Bernie Hildebrand, 1982, Upland Game Bird and Fur Surveys and Inventory - Region 7. Statewide Wildlife Survey and Inventory. W-130-R-13, II-7, July 1, 1981 - June 30, 1982.
    • Knowles, P. R. 1981. Habitat selection, home range size, and movements of bobcats in North-Central Montana. M.S. thesis. University of Montana, Missoula. 52 pp.
    • Knowles, P. R. 1985. Home range size and habitat selection of bobcats in north-central Montana. Can. Field-Nat. 99:6-12.
    • Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2002: Camp Creek, Sula, Montana. Proj. No. 130091.039. February 2003. In 2002 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. I.
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    • Lovallo, M.J., J.H. Gilbert, and M. Gehring. 1993. Bobcat (Felis rufus) dens in an abandoned beaver (Castor canadensis) lodge. The Canadian Field-Naturalist 107(1): 108-109.
    • Martin, Steve A., ECON, Inc., Helena, MT., 1982, Flathead Project Wildlife Report, 1981-1982. November 30, 1982.
    • McCord, C. M. and J. E. Cardoza. 1982. Bobcat and lynx. In: J. A. Chapman and G. A. Feldhamer, eds. Wild mammals of North America: Biology, management and economics. pp. 728-766. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
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    • Peterson, Joel, and Michael R. Frisina, 1986, II Upland Game Bird Survey and Inventory, Region Three, Game Birds and Fur (Small Game) Survey and Inventory. Statewide Wildlife Survey and Inventory. W-130- R-17, Job No. II-3, July 1, 1985 - June 30, 1986.
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    • Smith, Drew, 1984, Ecology of the bobcat in a coniferous forest environment in western Montana (Habitat use, home range and movements of bobcats in western Montana). Statewide Wildlife Research. Furbearing Mammal Studies. W-120-R-14 and 15 III FB-2.0 1. April 30, 1984.
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    • Waage, Bruce C., compiler., 1985, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Rosebud County, Montana: Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report, 1984 Field Season. October 1985.
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Citation for data on this website:
Bobcat — Lynx rufus.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.  Retrieved on July 22, 2014, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/detail_AMAJH03020.aspx
 
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