What is a bobcat?

Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are small, predatory wild cat species that are native to Ohio and one of seven wild cat species found in North America. Bobcats belong to the same family as domesticated cats, Felidae. Prior to the settlement of Ohio during the 19th century, bobcats once roamed freely without persecution, but similarly like with other larger predatory animals present in Ohio during this time period they were aggresively hunted and extirpated from the state in 1850. In the 1970's Bobcats began making a comeback into Ohio with scattered reported sightings. In 1974 the bobcat was designated as an endangered species. Since then more and more sightings have been reported and in 2012 Bobcats were delisted from endangered to threatened species in Ohio. Today, they are no longer listed as threatened, but are still considered a protected species with no designated hunting or trapping season.

How Can I Properly Identify a Bobcat?

Bobcats are small, predators that are nearly double the size of a domestic cat. They have short, dense, soft fur that is variable, but typically includes colors ranging from light gray, to yellowish brown, or to buff brown, with black spots on the upper or dorsal portion of the body. The underside or ventral side and inside of the legs of the bobcat are usually whitish with dark black spots or bars. Although much smaller than, but similar in appearance to the Lynx, Bobcats have a distinct short tail that is black on top and white underneath. Bobcats have pointed, erect ears that are tipped in black. The back of the ears are spotted in white.

Where Do Bobcats Live?

Bobcats are extremely territorial with most females being intolerable of other females in their territorial range. Males tend to be more accepting of other males in their territories. Bobcats can inhabit a variety of habitats ranging from grassland, forest, wetland, desert, and even suburban areas. Females look to create dens in dead trees, tree cavities, cacti, holes in the ground, or in rock formations to care for juveniles and newborn kittens.

When Are Bobcats Active?

Bobcats are crepescular creatures that are most active during early morning and evening hours. Seldomly seen due to their elusive nature, Bobcats are solitary, carnivorous, ambush predators that have an affinity for rabbit or snowshoe hares; although, they have a wide diet consisting of an array of options including insects, reptiles, amphibians, fish, birds, and other small mammals. 

What is the Role of Bobcats in the Richland County Park District?

Bobcats are becoming increasingly more common throughout Ohio and even Richland County. Bobcats are part of our park system’s natural resources. Over the past two decades, they have become a more normal part of the wildlife populations of the Park District, as well as suburbs, surrounding rural areas, and other natural areas throughout northcentral Ohio. 

Although numbers have rebounded, bobcats have become a staple top level predator in Ohio's ecosystem. Bobcats are a natural control that keeps small mammal populations in check. Today, the bobcat is one of a handful of mammal predators to function as a predator in this region. Although bobcats are predators, they are also opportunistic feeders like most other animals and shift their diets to take advantage of the most available prey. Bobcat diets are made up of mammals, mostly small mice and other rodents, rabbits, raccoons, ground nesting waterfowl/songbirds and their eggs, carrion, reptiles, and amphibians.

What Should I do if I Encounter a Bobcat?

Simply seeing a bobcat is normally not a cause for concern. Bobcats may frequent residential areas out of curiosity or as part of their normal travel routines; however, typically they are elusive and avoid people. Most people have never seen a bobcat so unless there is cause for concern enjoy the rare opportunity and watch what they are doing.

If you witness what appears to be an injured bobcat or have had a concerning encounter please contact the Richland County Wildlife Officer (419) 429-8392.

About Our Parks

Our parks and staff are dedicated to education, enjoyment and preservation of Richland County's natural areas and inhabitants. Our goal is pursued by preserving natural areas for people to experience, and by providing opportunities for people of all ages to learn about the rich diversity of life and habitats in our county.

Our Location

Gorman Nature Center
2295 Lexington Avenue
Mansfield, Ohio 44907

Hours of Operation
Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
(Closed Sunday-Monday and Federal Holidays. Trails are open daily from dawn to dusk.)

419-884-FROG (3764)

© 2015 Richland County Park District. All Rights Reserved.