Here at the zoo, we have one bobcat named Bets who shares his exhibit with our female lynx, Lexi! Bets is a male bobcat that was transferred to Wildwood Zoo from Ochsner Park Zoo in Baraboo, WI on October 27, 2016. He was born on July 2nd in 2007. Bets is a confident, outgoing cat who enjoys interacting with visitors and his keepers! Having both a bobcat and lynx in a multi-species exhibit is a great opportunity for our patrons to see a side by side comparison of these two closely related species.
Bobcats, sometimes referred to as wildcats, are medium-sized cats that are typically about twice the size of a house cat. The bobcat has an orange-tan pelt with black stripes on the face and spots on the body. The top of the tail is black with a white underside. They have a white chest and belly, but the belly is heavily spotted. These spots and the color of their coat helps camouflage the bobcat in the thick underbrush. Bobcats are most active at night and are extremely elusive. Bobcats and lynx are both part of the Lynx family; differences between the two species can be subtle, so people often mistake them in the wild. Here in Wisconsin, we are relatively close to an overlap in lynx and bobcat ranges. Sighting either is possible, but a lynx sighting in Wisconsin is very rare.
They are the most abundant wild cat species in North America and have the largest geographic distribution. Though bobcats are relatively common predators (estimated population in the United States is about 2.3 to 3.6 million animals and about 2,850 in Wisconsin) they are rarely seen.
Thick forested areas of northern Wisconsin are home to the bobcat. They like alder thickets and coniferous swamps with black spruce, white cedar, or balsam fir trees especially. In the southern part of the bobcat's range, they prefer upland areas when conifer swamps aren't found.
They have their first litter of 2-3 kittens when they are 2 years old. Kittens are born between April and July in dens found in caves, rock crevices, or hollow logs, or trees.
In the wild: 16 years
In human care: 25 years
The snowshoe hare and cottontail rabbit are the major prey of Wisconsin bobcats. These cats will look for sick, injured, very young or old white-tailed deer if a rabbit meal isn't easily available. They also like larger mammals for a meal like the porcupine, squirrel, and wood chuck. They'll chase and eat smaller animals such as mice, voles, shrews, reptiles, birds and even insects. Most of all, the bobcat specializes in taking larger, rabbit-sized prey.