Bobcats are opportunistic predators, feeding on poultry, sheep, goats, house cats, small dogs, exotic birds and game animals, and, rarely, calves. Bobcats can easily kill domestic and wild turkeys, usually by climbing into their night roosts. In some areas, bobcats can prevent the successful introduction and establishment of wild turkeys or can deplete existing populations.
Bobcats leave a variety of sign. Bobcat tracks are about 2 to 3 inches (5 to 8 cm) in diameter and resemble those of a large house cat. Their walking stride length between tracks is about 7 inches (18 cm).
Carcasses of bobcat kills are often distinguishable from those of cougar, coyote, or fox. Bobcats leave claw marks on the backs or shoulders of adult deer or antelope. On large carcasses, bob-cats usually open an area just behind the ribs and begin feeding on the viscera. Sometimes feeding starts at the neck, shoulders, or hindquarters. Bob-cats and cougar leave clean-cut edges of tissue or bone while coyotes leave ragged edges where they feed.
Bobcats bite the skull, neck, or throat of small prey like lambs, kids, or fawns, and leave claw marks on their sides, back, and shoulders. A single bite to the throat, just behind the victim’s jaws, leaves canine teeth marks 3/4 to 1 inch (2 to 2.5 cm) apart.
Carcasses that are rabbit-size or smaller may be entirely consumed at one feeding. Bobcats may return several times to feed on large carcasses.
Bobcats, like cougars, often attempt to cover unconsumed remains of kills by scratching leaves, dirt, or snow over them. Bobcats reach out about 15 inches (38 cm) in raking up debris to cover their kills, while cougars may reach out 24 inches (61 cm).
Bobcats also leave signs at den sites. Young kittens attempt to cover their feces at their dens. Females with young kittens may mark prominent points around den sites with their feces. Adult bobcats leave conspicuous feces along frequently traveled rocky ridges or other trails. These are some-times used as territorial markings at boundaries. Adult bobcats also mark trails or cave entrances with urine. This is sprayed on rocks, bushes, or snow banks. Bob-cats may leave claw marks at urine or feces scent posts by scraping with their hind feet. These marks are 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) long by 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) wide.
Bobcats also occasionally squirt a pasty substance from their anal glands to mark areas. The color of this sub-stance is white to light yellow in young bobcats but is darker in older bobcats.
Among Midwestern states, the bobcat is protected in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and in most counties of Kentucky. It is managed as a furbearer or game animal in the plains states. Western states generally exempt depredating bobcats from protected status. They can usually be killed by land-owners or their agent. In the more eastern states and states where bobcats are totally protected, permits are required from the state wildlife agency to destroy bobcats. Consult with your state wildlife agency regarding local regulations and restrictions.
Damage by bobcats is rather uncommon and statistics related to this dam-age are not well developed. In western states where data have been obtained, losses of sheep and goats have comprised less than 10% of all predation losses. Typical complaints of bobcat predation involve house cats and poultry allowed to roam at will in mountain subdivisions and ranches. Bobcats are taken by trappers and by hunters using hounds. The pelts are used for coats, trim, and accessories, the spotted belly fur being most valuable. Bob-cat pelts are used for wall decorations and rugs. In recent years, North American bobcat harvests have produced about 25,000 pelts valued at $2.5 million annually. Aesthetically, the bobcat is a highly regarded carnivore. To many people the bobcat represents the essence of wildness in any habitat it occupies.