Forest Feature: Bobcats

A bobcat in a tree.

Our Forest Feature for March is the elusive Lynx rufus, also known as the bobcat.

The bobcat is the smallest wild cat in Oregon. It’s much smaller than the mountain lion, or even the Canada lynx.

Bobcats are about twice the size of domestic cats, but with longer legs and a muscular, compact body.

Bobcats are active year-round, even during the cold, winter months, but is not well adapted to deep snow.

They live almost everywhere in the Pacific Northwest, except at very high elevations. Yet you may have never seen one; they are notoriously reclusive!

A bobcat’s penetrating gaze. Undated USDA Forest Service photo by Terry Spivey.

The bobcat’s coat is yellowish and spotted with gray overtones in winter, and turns more reddish in summer. Their large, black ears that feature a large white spot and short black tufts. Their feet tend to be mostly white but can have stripes or spots.

These markings can be very striking, but they also serve to camouflage among the shadows when hunting smaller animals in the forest.

The bobcat’s most distinctive feature is the big “ruff” of fur that extends out from either side of its face.

USDA Forest Service photo (undated).

Bobcats get their name from their short, black-tipped tail.

These cats tend to be active during warm weather in cold months, and cooler temperatures in warmer ones. They like to rest in den sites located in natural cavities and caves, hollow logs, and protected areas under logs and downed trees.

While they prefer a very solitary life, bobcats are fierce fighters and have few natural predators.

Life in the wild can be hard, but the average bobcat lives about four years, and a healthy bobcat can live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live up to 25 years.

Bobcats are extremely effective hunters. They stalk, rush, and pounce on their prey. Bobcats eat mice, rabbits, reptiles, birds, and even insects, and save what they don’t eat for later.

One of our USDA Forest Service resource assistants was so inspired by the lynx, he wrote this haiku:

Silent, steady eyes

Then, the blurry dance begins

The lynx and the Hare

For more information:


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

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