The bobcat is the only species of wild cat now found in Massachusetts. They are shy creatures, most active at night and preferring wild habitats, so it is uncommon to see one.
Much larger than a house cat, an adult bobcat can measure from 28 to 47 inches long and weigh from 15 to 35 pounds, the male being larger than the female. They have a short tail (3.5 to 8 inches), a facial ruff, and slightly pointed ears. They are variable in color with indistinct spots.
Bobcats are polygamous, meaning they have more than one mate, and there is no on-going bond between the male and female. Breeding occurs between February and March, and the kittens are born 62 days later.
Litters consist of one to four young which are blind and helpless at birth and have a thick coat of spotted fur. Their eyes open at about 10 days, and begin taking solid food at around 30 days. They are weaned at 60 to 70 days and usually remain with the female until their first fall or winter.
Birth dens are located in caves, under ledges, in hollow logs, or other protected locations, and are lined with dried vegetation. The male is not involved in the raising of the young.
Bobcats frequent a variety of habitats, but they are shy and elusive, most active at night, making sightings by people uncommon. Populations vary across the state, with highest density in central and western Massachusetts, lower density in the northeast, and they are rare to absent in the southeast. They cover large territories and may travel as much as four miles in a single day. Both male and females mark their territories with scent.
Their preferred food is medium-sized mammals such as rabbits, but they are opportunists and will eat many other creatures including birds, insects, fish, and even some plants. Larger prey such as deer are likely to be killed only when injured or otherwise vulnerable. When food is plentiful, they will cache it.
Situations and Solutions
Bobcats prefer to avoid people rather than to interact with them. As with all wildlife, do not attempt to approach one, particularly if they have young. Bobcats are known to kill livestock or unsupervised small pets.
Bobcats and Disease
Bobcats are susceptible to rabies which is invariably fatal to animals. Learn more