Thoughts on bobcats

January 3, 2010

In addition to direct questions on the subject, I’ve been noticing a lot of hits on this site related to the topic of bobcats and their tracks.

A bobcat (Lynx rufus) within Shenandoah National Park

While I’m hoping that the hits are merely for curiosity or done by nature lovers, I debated before beginning this post because I hate to think of unnecessary hunting or poaching of the species. Nevertheless, I’ll give you all the benefit of the doubt and talk about my experiences with bobcats.

Early on in the creation of this site (November 2008), while working on my book about the Shenandoah Valley, I created a wishlist of animals that I really wanted to find, including the bobcat.

A few days later, while hiking on Limberlost Trail I noticed my first real sign of a bobcat, the tracks.

Bobcat tracks in snow were easy to follow, but I was never able to find the animal itself.

In my experience, bobcat tracks are very close in size and shape to an average house cat. Although they are somewhat active during the day, I found most signs appeared overnight.

Though I made repeated visits to the same area and sometimes saw more tracks, I was never able to locate the source of the tracks there.

It wasn’t until March that I found my first bobcat, rather by mistake. Despite actively seeking one for months, I found this one only when it ran in front of my car on Skyline Drive. Luckily it was the perfect subject. The photo at the top of this post was one of my favorites that was a personal highlight from the book project. In case you’re wondering where it’s been all this time, it’s been in the book! This is the first time I’ve put it online.

If you spot an animal that you think may be a bobcat, keep an eye out for the tail.

As a sidenote, it’ll also be part of an online “Guide to SNP” that is being assembled by others. I’ll let you know more about that another day.

Finally, if you’re one of the Googlers for “bobcat footprints,” “bobcat tracks in snow,” “bobcats in Shenandoah” or any of the other bobcat searches I’ve been getting over and over, what else do you want to know? Let me know in the comments.

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5 Responses to “Thoughts on bobcats”


  1. […] would love to see a bobcat again. I’ve only photographed one during my last book in Virginia. Mountain lions are something that I would like to have photographs […]

  2. Eric Landen Says:

    Thanks for putting the pics up of the bobcat tracks in snow. Last week I did a hike on the “Rock of Sges” trail in the Columbia Gorge near my home in Oregon.
    I wasn’t sure if the prints I saw were of a bobcat because they seemed so small, but your comments are confirming what I saw, four front pads, and about the size of a large house cat.
    In many years of hiking the woods in Oregon this was a first for me.
    They are truly beautiful and amazing animals.

  3. Alan Wilson Says:

    Saw a bobcat (as pictured above) yesterday morning about 2/3 way up on the Mary’s Rock trail from Thornton’s Gap. It saw me as I turned onto a curve and as I saw it , I decided it was a good time to turn around. Lynx rufus seemed ok with that as it continued on its way with a perceived shrug.

  4. Aaron Knight Says:

    Saw a Bobcat near the summit of Old Rag yesterday. Was surprised it would be comfortable enough in that area. I unfortunately did not get the photo. But, I was successful in getting a better vantage point on a boulder and seeing him again. He walked out of the underbrush right below me within 15 feet and didn’t see me!

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