The Bobcat’s Hunting Behavior (How and Where They Hunt)

Although small, bobcats are one of America’s most successful predators. They have spread across nearly the entire continent and are able to survive in most environments, from arid deserts to dense forests. Their success is thanks in large part to their excellent hunting abilities. 

Bobcats have evolved into efficient predators that consistently are able to take down prey and ensure they’re well-fed throughout the year. 

Please read on as Floofmania dives into these fascinating felines and how they manage to be such expert hunters despite their small size.

How Do Bobcats Hunt?

Although not big or particularly strong, bobcats are clever and rely on strategy to bring down their prey. By making the most out of their natural abilities, Bobcats can ensure that they always have food in their belly.

Are Bobcats Ambush Predators?

Being relatively small at about 2-3 feet long, bobcats cannot rely on strength or speed. The primary method of hunting for our furry friends is ambushing prey. This means that rather than chasing down or outfighting prey, bobcats rely on surprise to get the jump on other animals. Being natural climbers, these felines can easily scale most surfaces.

When hunting, bobcats typically find a high place to hide, like a tree or rock, where they lie and wait for their prey to pass. They then pounce and take down their prey before it can react and run away.

Are Bobcats Scavengers?

Scavenging is a rare behavior in bobcats, as they usually get more than enough food through hunting, but it does happen. While it isn’t their primary method of getting food, bobcats aren’t ones to turn down a free meal. Why waste time and energy hunting when there is already meat freely available? 

Scavenging happens more during winter when there might be less prey to hunt and when other animals are more likely to die from exposure. 

There are several cases of bobcats scavenging animals that other predators have taken down or that have died of natural causes. For the former, they will wait until the larger predator leaves, letting them eat without interaction.

Do Bobcats Hunt In Groups?

Any cat owner can tell you that their felines value their independence and privacy, and bobcats are no different, probably worse. 

Being highly territorial, bobcats will actively chase away any other individuals who enter their territory. Even mates do not live together, with males and females each having their own territories. 

The only time bobcats might be together as a group is when mothers take care of their litters. At this point, the cubs are still learning how to fend for themselves and rely on their mothers. Even from a young age, bobcats already have an independent streak, as once they know how to hunt for themselves, they will leave their mothers and venture out on their own.

What Prey Do Bobcats Hunt?

Bobcats require about two pounds of meat daily to survive, so they have a long list of prey to sustain themselves. What they eat varies depending on what environment they live in. As bobcats can be found in different habitats, their diets vary.

Bobcat HabitatBobcat Prey
ForestsSnowshoe hares, rabbits, beavers, and fawns.
DesertSnakes, small reptiles, mice, small birds, and carrion.
SwampsTurkeys, mice, rabbits, squirrels, and small deer.

On some rare occasions, bobcats might even eat larger animals like deer, although this is rare. Since bobcats cannot usually beat animals like this in a fight, they will either have to scavenge one or go after a sick individual.

Do Bobcats Attack Livestock?

Bobcats usually avoid places inhabited by humans because they know we can pose a serious threat to them. But at the end of the day, they are opportunistic hunters, and if an opportunity presents itself for an easy meal, they will take it.

While bobcats won’t go after something as big as humans, the same can’t be said for any animal companions we might have.

Livestock such as chickens and goats is a target for these pint-sized felines, especially if hunting in the wilderness is difficult. 

Farmers often complain about bobcats getting into their property and wreaking havoc on the farm. This is actually a common reason why bobcats are hunted. Authorities often recommend taking extra precautions in protecting your property if bobcats are nearby. 

Do Bobcats Attack Pets?

If you live in a house close to the wilderness, it is critical that you keep a watchful eye on your pets at all times, lest a predator gets them. Unfortunately, even our furry friends are not safe from bobcats. Bobcats may not be big, but they are larger than the average housecat and even some dog breeds which makes it possible for the bobcat to see your pet as a potential meal.

Although many species of dogs might be able to fight them off, it is a risk you shouldn’t take; instead, keep your pets secure indoors whenever possible.

How Do Bobcats Take Down Their Prey?

Since they rely on ambushes, the element of surprise is everything for these small cats. Bobcats need to take down their prey quickly before they can react and fight back or run away. This situation gives bobcats only one shot at overpowering their prey.

To do that, bobcats will provide a single powerful bite that will hopefully disable their prey and knock them off their feet. They will target areas like the skull, neck, and throat. 

Some deer remains show bobcat claw marks along their backs. These show the additional damage their claws can do.

Do Bobcats Only Hunt At Night?

Although bobcats are nocturnal, they do not only hunt at night. Our furry friends are highly adaptable and can change their behavior to suit the environment, including their hunting patterns.

Many of their prey, such as snowshoe hares and fawns, are nocturnal and only come out at night, so bobcats will match their active hours to have the best chance of catching them.

If the situation changes, though, and most of their prey are awake during the day, bobcats will spend more time hunting when the sun is up. An example is during winter when hares are more active during the day. Bobcats will wake up a few hours earlier and hunt them during the day.

Check this video of a bobcat getting ready to pounce on its prey.

Are Bobcats Noisy When Hunting?

Being solitary animals, bobcats aren’t especially chatty, to begin with, but when they are hunting, these skillful hunters become near silent. 

When preparing an ambush, bobcats can go for hours without making a sound which is key to their success. Many nocturnal animals, like the one’s bobcats, hunt and rely on their sense of hearing more than anything else, so even the slightest noise can spook them.

Do Bobcats Play With Their Prey Like Cats Do?

Many house cats have a habit of toying with their food before eating; some of those habits can also be seen in bobcats. While much less common, a few videos online show these feisty cats playing with their food before eating. 

Many videos are taken in controlled environments, like research centers. In all of them, though, the bobcats have already taken down their prey when they play with it. 

Their primary strategy of ambushes relies on taking down prey quickly and efficiently, so bobcats have fewer opportunities to toy with their prey before taking it down.

Do Bobcats Eat Their Prey Where They Caught It?

Normally a bobcat won’t immediately eat their prey after taking it down. They will first take their catch somewhere safe where they can eat in peace. While bobcats are predators, bobcats are still quite small, and the last thing they want is another, larger predator trying to move in on their food. 

So instead, they will drag their prey somewhere safer, like an isolated part of the forest, and eat there. 

Aside from making for a more peaceful meal, it also gives them the option of hiding their prey if they cannot finish it. This strategy allows bobcats to make their meal last longer.

Will A Bobcat Eat Everything From Their Prey?

For smaller animals such as squirrels and mice, bobcats will often eat most, if not everything, from the bones, muscle, and tissue. Thanks to their size, it is much harder to eat around the bones and internal organs, meaning bobcats will just eat everything.

With larger animals such as deer or rabbits, bobcats tend to be pickier with what they eat, preferring to eat around parts they don’t like.

In many cases, they leave bones and tissue behind rather than consume everything. Scientists can determine which animals were eating by looking at the remains, judging by the patterns left behind.

Bobcats typically leave clean-cut edges around the bone and tissue compared to predators like coyotes that leave ragged edges.

Do Bobcats Bury Food For Later?

With their small size, bobcats don’t need to eat as much as larger predators, only requiring 2 or 3 pounds or about 10% of their body weight. Animals like deer or even beavers weigh much more than that, so bobcats won’t always be able to finish themselves. 

Rather than let that meat go to waste, these clever felines will take the leftovers and store them for later.

Of course, just as someone might decide to take our leftovers from the fridge, another predator might try and steal the bobcat’s meal. To avoid this, bobcats can get creative by hiding their meals. 

They will typically drag it somewhere safe and then cover their food with grass or leaves to disguise the scent and make it harder to find for other animals. They will mark the area, so they know where to find their prey.

Author: Quade Ong

Hello there, my name is Quade. I have been a writer for three years but an animal lover for over two decades. I grew up in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, which has given me the blessing of seeing all sorts of beautiful animals. Now I strive to learn not just about the animals I am from, but those all over the world!

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