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Bobcats in Indiana

Bobcats, the only resident native wild cat in Indiana, are common in southern and parts of central Indiana, and increasing in northern Indiana. They are rarely seen because of their ability to blend into their surroundings and move silently.  

General Description

  • Short tail typically less than 6 inches long that is white on bottom and black-striped on top.
  • Range in length from 30–50 inches, stand about 2 feet high, and weigh 15–30 pounds.
  • Large tufts of fur on the cheeks.
  • Fur is reddish-brown or tan, above a white belly.
  • Black marks on the inside of the legs, and often black spots or streaks throughout the coat, though these are sometimes light-colored and not easily noticeable.
  • Bobcats may live as long as 10–12 years in the wild.
  • Bobcat vocalizations are rarely heard by people.

Video: Bobcats
Video: Wildlife Surveys

Bobcat or Mountain Lion?

size comparison of a bobcat versus a mountain lion

Illustration courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation.

Bobcat

  • Weight: 15-30 pounds
  • Length: About 30-50 inches long
  • Tail: About 4-5 inches long

Mountain Lion

  • Weight: 80-160 pounds
  • Length: About 7-8 feet long
  • Tail: 2-3 feet long (up to half of the total length

Report a Large Mammal Sighting in Indiana

The Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife occasionally receives reports of large carnivores such as mountain lions, gray wolves and black bears.

There are currently NO breeding populations of these species in Indiana. But one of these animals may pass through Indiana from established populations in other states.

You can report a sighting of these animals online.

Though not a large mammal, bobcats may also be reported online.

Distribution and Abundance

Bobcats have been reported from almost every Indiana county but are most common in southern and west-central Indiana. A study conducted by the DNR in south-central Indiana revealed that bobcats are capable of dispersing up to 100 miles from where they were born. Bobcat Reports through Spring 2020The DNR collects reports of bobcat sightings, trail-camera photos, and mortalities. Bobcat reports are also collected through the annual Archer’s Index, in which volunteer deer bow hunters report the number of hours they hunted and the species they saw while hunting. Snapshot Indiana, a citizen-science trail-camera survey, also helps document bobcat presence in some areas. 

Bobcats prefer forested areas that have brushy areas, fields, or clear cuts that are beginning to regrow mixed in. Female bobcat home ranges may vary from 6–12 square miles, and male bobcat home ranges may vary from 30–75 square miles. Bobcats are primarily nocturnal, hunting and moving during early-morning and late-evening hours; however, seeing a bobcat during the day is not cause for concern.

Food Habits

Indiana research has documented bobcat diets to include:

  • Rabbits
  • Mice and voles
  • Squirrels
  • White-tailed deer, especially fawns
  • Muskrats
  • Waterfowl and songbirds

Indiana research did not document wild turkey consumption by bobcats, though bobcats would eat a wild turkey if they manage to catch one. Wild turkey does not seem to be a common prey item for Indiana bobcats.

Reproduction

Bobcats are territorial and generally solitary animals. While bobcats can breed year-round, the vast majority of mating generally occurs in early spring during February and March with the young being born after a 62-day gestation period. An average litter of 1–3 kittens is born in April or May. The female may move the kittens to several different dens during the growth period. Males do not assist in raising the young. The young generally remain with the female until they reach 1 year of age then disperse. Kitten survival is associated with prey abundance, with more young surviving during the years of higher rabbit and other small-mammal populations.
 

Management and Control

As with all wildlife, bobcats should be respected if encountered. The natural response of a bobcat is to move away from humans. Bobcats, like all wildlife, should never be fed or approached because doing so can reduce their natural response to avoid people and lead to negative interactions. Removing potential attractants that attract rodents, like pet food or bird feeders, can help encourage a bobcat that is hanging around a yard to move on.

Pets should always be leashed when outdoors or kept in a kennel with a secure top to prevent negative interactions with all wildlife, including bobcats. Conflicts between bobcats and livestock are uncommon but may occur. Most reports are of bobcat predation on chickens. Landowners or lessees may request a nuisance wild animal control permit from the DNR for bobcats if damage is occurring. Landowners or lessees may also hire a nuisance wildlife control operator to assist them if they are not comfortable removing the bobcat themselves. Bobcats may not be removed without a permit.