General Information & Description
The bobcat (Lynx Rufus) is a member of the Felidae cat family. The most common wild cat in the US, the bobcat is named for it's short, bobbed tail. Bobcats are about twice the size of the average domestic cat and they tend to be larger in it's northern range and in open habitats. They have brown spots on a grey coat with black tufted ears, black bars on the forelegs and a stubby, black-tipped tail. Though they have been heavily hunted for sport and for their furs, their population has proven resilient. They breed between winter and spring with 2-4 litters that grow into adults in less than 24 months. Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary. It used several methods to mark it's territorial boundaries, such as claw marks and deposits of urine or faeces. Though the bobcat prefers to hunt rabbits and hares, it will hunt anything from insects, chickens and small rodents to deer.
Bobcats range from southern Canada to Northern Mexico, including most of the United States. In the mid 1900s, populations in many Midwestern and eastern states were decimated due to the demand for it's fur. However, populations have rebounded since the 1970s, when international laws began protecting the world's spotted cats. Today, populations are stable in many northern states and are reviving in many others. Though bobcats prefer woodlands, they are highly adaptable and can be found anywhere from the humid swamps of Florida to the desert lands of Texas or in rugged mountain areas. The population of the bobcat depends primarily on the population of it's prey. Other requirements for it's home is protection from severe weather, resting and den sites and dense cover for hunting and hiding. It's range does not seem to be limited by by human populations and they may venture into backyards in towns and cities, especially in areas where housing developments intersects with natural habitats.
Methods of Kill
Bobcats are known to hunt any time of the day, but are commonly observed to do so during twilight hours of dawn and dusk or early evenings. Just like cats, low light is not a hindrance since their keen eyes can spot prey at night. They have acute senses of sight and smell, and will go for the kill using their sharp claws and incisors. The bobcat will lie, crouch, or stand and wait for victims to wander close. It will then pounce, grabbing its prey with its sharp, retractable claws. Bobcat kills are often easy to identify as they leave claw marks on the shoulders, necks, and backs of their victims. They usually start feeding on the dead or dying victims around the ribs and shoulders with clean marks on the flesh and bones. Expect their prey to have been dragged around and covered with dirt and twigs.
Prevention & Treatment
Bobcats are among the most cunning feline predators and are generally difficult to trap. However, there are commercial traps and snares that can maim or capture them unharmed. Bobcats are attracted to the raw meat of dead birds, squirrels, or cows. They also enjoy live bait like pigeons or chickens. One method of dealing with Bobcats is by trapping them. Once a bobcat is trapped, dispose of it according to the laws in your state. Typically, as long as they are a menace to any livestock, bobcats can be pursued without much interference from the state. If you do not want to dispose of the cat yourself, you can enlist the help of a professional trapper. Whether your chickens are free ranging or secured in coops, it is still best to construct electrified, solid wood, or concrete fences. Another way to protect your poultry from bobcats is by using human urine around your chicken coop. You can also train Great Danes, Dobermans, Great Pyrenees, or any other large dog to get along with your chickens to discourage foraging bobcats and other predators.
For more information and discussions on dealing with bobcats see the Predators and Pests section of the forum.