People have always asked a lot of questions about the species of animal that the bobcat kills. They want to know whether bobcats kill humans (human-animal 😊), deer, cats, dogs, coyotes, rattlesnakes, fawns, foxes and even whether they kill for fun.
I’ve also dealt with the question as to whether bobcats would win a fight against a Rottweiler or a pit bull. That page generated a little bit of argument as it would do because bobcats don’t prey upon Rottweilers! It is about opinion. And they will avoid a fight with a Rottweiler for the obvious reason that they would probably end up injured which would impair their ability to survive. Predators are smart enough to avoid fights with other animals which might lead to their starvation due to injury.
But in getting down to work on the animals that bobcats kill, I can reliably say the following. The bobcat’s diet is dominated by rabbits and hares throughout most of their distribution. Deer and a range of species of rodent are also important food sources for this 20+ pounds medium-sized wild cat species which is so prevalent in the USA.
It depends upon the season and location as to what they kill and eat. For example, in California, Arizona and Texas, kangaroo rats, cottontail rabbits and wood rats are common prey animals. Whereas in Western Washington state around 40% of bobcats prey on mountain beavers (as at 2002). About one in five bobcats prey upon snowshoe hares.
In the Western Cascades of Oregon, the diet of the bobcat during summer included snowshoe hares, black-tailed deer, mountain beaver, pocket gopher and passerine birds. Each of these species represented about 10% of the prey animals that this cat attacked and ate.
In Kentucky, in early winter, opossums were the most frequent prey animals as at 2002. In Florida on the south-eastern coastal plain they prefer to eat rats and rabbits. They also attack adult deer in Florida but not in other parts of the south-east of the USA. And the bobcat is a serious predator of fawns according to my source which is excellent.
Across the north-eastern United States deer represent about 16-35% of the bobcat’s prey animals based upon the remains in their stomach and faeces. They say that these percentages are probably much higher in winter when there are increased demands upon their body to keep warm and deep snow limits their movements.
Sometimes they scavenge the carcasses of deer and other times they kill them. In upstate New York in the Adirondacks researchers found the remains of deer in 72% of the stomachs of 93 bobcat carcasses.
The eating habits of bobcats depends upon the sex and age in the US states of Maine, Arkansas and in Nova Scotia, Canada.
It should be noted, however, that most prey attacked and eaten by bobcats are small; weighing less than 2 kg. However, evidence suggests that they can single-handedly kill prey weighing about 10 times their own body weight. I would suggest, though, that this does not mean that bobcats can kill Rottweilers because the deer is a passive animal and the Rottweiler is not.
And it should also be noted that in a sample of 37 deer killed by bobcats in Vermont, six of them weighed less than 23 kg (51 pounds) while 22 weighed between 23-45 kg. Eight of them weighed between 45-67 kg. The largest deer killed was a 68 kg buck.
When a bobcat kills a deer, they do so with a rapid bite to the throat, neck or base of the skull. Most bites are to the throat resulting in suffocation or haemorrhage (see video and picture on this page). This is important. Because of the passive nature of the deer, they are able to suffocate the animal with relatively ease which accounts for the ability of the bobcat to kill a relatively large animal.
In addition to the above, bobcats kill the following animals in various percentages and in various places including Baja, California, Mexico, Florida, Michigan and Eastern Washington.
Lagomorphs, cottontail rabbits, marsh rabbits, snowshoe hares, black-tailed Jack rabbits, porcupines, striped skunks, cotton rats, raccoons, opossums, pocket mice, red squirrels, white-footed mice, wood rats, insects, birds, lizards, snakes, scorpions, plant material. They do kill domestic cats as well. There have been some worrying (for cat owners) events in parts of the US in this regard. They also kill and eat small dogs sometimes.
The information provided above comes from the book Wild Cats of the World. The authors of that book, Mel and Fiona Sunquist, relied on a wide variety of research papers and documents which are referenced in the book. If you want information about these references, please ask in a comment and I will be happy to provide it.