Last summer, one of my cameras captured a series of photos of mother and kitten bobcats playing. I was delighted, but at the same time disappointed that I hadn’t set the camera on video. So I switched it to video and left it in place for another year. Amazingly enough, this year a mother-kitten pair showed up for a wrestling match in exactly the same spot! Most likely it’s the same mother.
The site is a rock outcrop on a hill top within dense, young, mixed (mostly coniferous) forest in Massachusetts. One side of the hill is steep and rocky, with many caves and crevices suitable for denning. Bobcat, porcupine, coyote, and deer spoor are common on the hill. Susan was the first to place a camera there and to get a bobcat, and ever since then, at least one of us fanatic camera trappers has been spying on the hill top wildlife. In the 2+ years I’ve had a camera up there, I’ve been treated to many photos and videos of bobcats, which seem partial to the soft blanket of moss and lichen you can see in the above photo. A bobcat sometimes rests on that mat, and sometimes marks it with scat or urine. It has also been the site of mom and kitten play time for two consecutive years.
I find it fascinating that the bobcat’s attraction to that mossy mat is reminiscent of house cat behavior. What does your cat do when you put some kind of pad or blanket on the floor or on a piece of furniture? It chooses that spot for itself!
In the northeast, bobcats mate in February and March, and give birth two months later. A typical litter size is 1-4, with an average of two. The female is the sole care giver. She often chooses a rock crevice or cave, if available, for the natal den. Dense thickets, abandoned burrows of other species, brush piles, hollow logs, and hollow trees are possible alternatives. I don’t suggest approaching a possible den – that could cause the animal to abandon it, and dens are usually very difficult to approach anyway – but do look for regular bobcat spoor around possible den sites. These are good places for trail cameras.
The bobcat in these videos probably used a rock crevice, since there are a number of them in this area.
Bobcats Playing: Videos
The first video, a series of still photos spliced together, occurred around 6:30 AM on August 12, 2015. Kittens are usually born sometime in May, and I guestimate that this kitten was about 10 weeks old.
August 12, 2015
The second video was captured around 3:00 PM on September 27, 2016, so this kitten is much older. In fact, it’s almost as large as the mother. Notice that the mother was resting on the mat of moss when her kitten “attacked” her. It looks like a little boy…what do you think?
September 27, 2016
Some sources say that bobcat kittens disperse in the fall, but so far, my tracking and trail camera work in Massachusetts suggest that kittens sometimes, at least, remain with mom through the winter. Perhaps they disperse in fall in warmer climates. More on that if/when I get more data.
Hansen, K. Bobcat: Master of Survival. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.