Bobcats: Facts, Habits and Dangers

bobcat
This bobcat was sitting in an Anthem pocket park near Hastings Drive and Copper Basin Trail on the evening of Aug. 19, 2017. Photo by Randall Schlensig

Bobcats live throughout Arizona, and they hang around suburban areas like North Phoenix if there are sources of water and food (bunnies, lizards, birds, small pets — that sort of thing). They can sneak through a view fence or climb a tree with ease.

Oh, and they can jump as high as 12 feet. That’s a 144-inch vertical, for the sports-minded.

Height: Up to 2 feet
Length: 2 to 4 feet
Weight:  15 to 35 pounds
Color: Tan with dark spots
Tail: Short!

Bobcats are in the lynx genus of felines, distinct from but related to tigers, lions and house cats. Bobcats have shorter legs than many other cats and they sport characteristically short (bobbed) tails — hence the name. They are much smaller than mountain lions. (A mountain lion can be 6 feet long and weigh 75 to 145 pounds).

bobcat vs. mountain lion
These cats in the Saguaro National Forest, captured by an automatic camera, show the distinct differences in appearance between a bobcat (top) and a mountain lion. Photos: National Park Service

Bobcats live for 10 to 15 years. They hang out in rocky dens or just thick brush. They mate in February and March, typically resulting in two or three kittens born by June. One will defend an area up to 12 square miles.

Bobcat Dangers

These wild felines will normally avoid humans.

“If you see a bobcat near your home, there is no need to panic,” Game & Fish says. “Bobcats rarely attack people. However, if a bobcat does attack a human, it generally will have symptoms of rabies.”

And that’s not good.

In July 2017, Anthem resident Steve Verschoor stepped in to help another man and his German shepherd, which was in a confrontation with a bobcat. Verschoor intervened, and in a widely shared video, the bobcat latched on to Verschoor’s hand before being flung off and running away. Sheriff deputies killed the cat, which was found to be rabid, and Verschoor had to undergo rabies treatments.

Pets are another story. Small dogs are vulnerable to attack by healthy, hunting bobcats, and suburban residents frequently report such attacks. Animal experts suggest not leaving small dogs outside alone.

To scare a bobcat off, try loud noises, throw rocks or spray it with a garden hose, according to Game & Fish. If you see a bobcat behaving erratically, or it won’t leave, call Game & Fish at 623-236-7201.

bobcat in saguaro
Yes, bobcats can climb. Image: NPS
Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.
Robert Roy Britt on Email

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites Space.com and Live Science. He has written four novels.

npneditor has 148 posts and counting.See all posts by npneditor