make all kinds of sounds, including hisses and growls, yowls and purrs, mews, gurgles and wah-wah calls. During mating season, they’re quite noisy, making loud yowls and howls and meows called caterwauling. These sounds can be heard a mile away.
Bobcats live alone, except during the mating season. For only a few days, the male and female stay together. Then the male leaves and goes his own way. Two or three kittens are born 50 to 70 days later in a well-hidden place the mother has found—a rock pile, cave, brush pile or hollow tree.
Kittens are blind and helpless. Each weighs about 12 ounces. The female may change dens every one to six days to make sure predators don’t find the kittens. She either carries the young to a new site, or if the kittens can walk, leads the way to a new den.
When kittens are between three and five months old, they learn one of the most important lessons of their life—how to hunt. If they can’t kill their own food, they won’t survive long.
At first, the young follow their mother on hunts to watch her tactics. Later, they practice on their own, rarely taking prey but learning from their mistakes. Finally, by the age of seven months, they know how to hunt and take care of themselves and will leave their mother to find territories of their own. Bobcats live 10 to 17 years.
Missouri’s rising bobcat population hasn’t had much of an effect on Missourians.
“People are unaware of bobcats,” Hamilton says. because bobcats are usually nocturnal, quiet and elusive, state residents have few opportunities to see or hear them.
Bobcats are prowling our woodlands, however, and they play an important role in our natural world. These skilled predators help keep rabbit and rodent populations in check and add to the wild landscape of Missouri.
The bobcat may not be the only wildcat in Missouri. There have been a few sightings of mountain lions in the state since 1994. Before that, the last documented mountain lion sighting in Missouri was in 1927. Mountain lions can weigh from 90 to 160 pounds and are about 60 to 100 inches long.
People who see a bobcat sometimes think they’ve seen a mountain lion.
“There are many false reports of mountain lion sightings in Missouri,” says Hamilton. He added that most of the photos of reported mountain lions have proven to be of bobcats.
Although it has documented a few sightings of mountain lions in Missouri, the Conservation Department does not believe the big cats are breeding and raising families here. The Department is working to determine the current number of mountain lions in Missouri today.