Although their numbers are declining because humans encroach their natural habitat, bobcats are Arizona's most common wild feline, outnumbering the mountain lion. The bobcat is a medium-size cat weighing 12 to 30 pounds with an average adult length of 2 to 2.5 feet. They are incredibly beautiful creatures that exist in varied colors from orange to gray with black markings similar to a domestic tabby cat. Their undersides are whitish and they have pointed ears with tufts at the end. A bobcat's tail is relatively short at about 5 inches which accounts for its name, "bobcat." They are often called "wildcats" as well.
Bobcats Traits and Behavior
Bobcats are timid and typically avoid human contact, but do not let their relatively small size fool you. They are tremendously strong and can bring down a small deer. They can become ferocious when challenged, so never approach a bobcat. Although they may look like a very large and friendly domestic cat, they can inflict serious harm with large claws and teeth.
Bobcats are very territorial and are generally seen alone although groups may consist of mating pairs, siblings and mothers with kittens. They will defend a territory of 1 to 12 square miles. Bobcats are nocturnal and most active from sunset to near sunrise when they are hunting. Their diet consists of rabbits, rats, mice and small wild game but are known to stalk and kill larger game including small deer.
It takes a bobcat about two years to mature to breeding age. The breeding season is generally late winter to early spring. The bobcat's gestation period is usually 50 to 60 days and give birth of one to three kittens. The female bobcat raises its kittens alone and nurses them for about two months before teaching them how to hunt.
Habitat Range of the Bobcat
Bobcats are found throughout Arizona at all elevations and landscape from the desert to rocky and forested areas. Since neighborhoods are continually expanding into wildlife territory, it is not unusual to find bobcats lounging and napping in home backyards under bushes and vegetation.
During daylight hours, the bobcat sleeps in rocky crevices, caves, thick brush and even hollow decaying tree logs. A lone male bobcat may have a territory that overlaps with female bobcats for breeding convenience.
As humans expand communities in natural habitats, the numbers of bobcats in the wild are diminishing. Hunting and trapping them is legal in Arizona and is also contributing to the dwindling numbers. Although bobcats are not on the endangered species list, their existence is being threatened. We encourage all to enjoy the beauty of these creatures of nature while protecting their habitats so these elegant cats can continue to thrive in Arizona's wild.