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How to Identify Cougar, Lynx & Bobcat Tracks

How to Identify Cougar, Lynx & Bobcat Tracks

Author Erik Abrams

Cougars are also known as mountain lions, panthers, and pumas. Each location across America has their own name for relatively the same animal. Its range used to cover from the temperate regions all across North and South America. The population is denser in the west, all along with the mountain ranges, and sparse or nearly extinct towards the east. Although the cougar resembles the common house cat, they're about the size of an adult human at 160 pounds and seven feet long which includes their long tail. Their paw prints are up to four inches in length.

Cougars will eat whatever they can catch but they prefer hoofed animals. They are most active at dawn and at dusk. They hunt alone and they stalk their prey. Attacks on humans are rare but occur because of their shrinking habitat due to human encroachment.

Most Canadian attacks happen in British Columbia because of the large cougar population there. Never approach a cougar. Cats prefer to attack from behind so don't turn your back if you happen to see one. Do what you can to make yourself look bigger. Wave your arms around, wave a branch or fan a jacket. Speak loudly and if you're attacked, fight back. You have to convince them that you're not their prey.

The Canada lynx is smaller than its Eurasian cousin at about 22 pounds. The length is 36 inches and it stands about 20 inches at the shoulder. As you can see from these pictures, their feet and legs seem out of proportion to their small body as compared to other cats. This is one of the adaptations that lynx have for traveling in deep snow. Other adaptations include feet with a large gap between the first and second toes where the bit toe is set at a wide-angle to give a better grip on the snow and on their prey. Also, they have a very dense coat of fur which helps them walk on top of the fresh snow.

They have a black-tipped tail, black tufted ears and a furry ruff on their necks which looks like a double pointed beard. Their range is further north than the cougar but there is considerable overlap in their ranges in much of Canada and the American northwest. They are mostly nocturnal but may be active at any time in the day. They feed mostly on snowshoe hare so their populations closely follow the ten year cycle seen in rabbit populations. The overly large feet of the Canada lynx measure just under four inches. In summer they have been known to eat birds and rodents and like most cats will also eat which is road kill or previously killed animals.

The bobcat exists in much of the continental U.S. as well as the northern part of Mexico and the southern parts of Canada. Not adapted to deep snow, it's northern range is limited. The bobcat has smaller tufts of black hair on the tips of it's ears. It also has notable dark bands on it's legs and a ringed tail differentiating it from it's larger lynx cousin which has a lighter colored coat, longer ear tufts and a black-tipped tail without rings. Adult males can be up to 22 pounds and females up to 15 pounds. They can grow up to 36 inches from the nose to the tip of their short tails. They are on average twice the size of an adult house cat making them about the size of a medium dog.

All the North American cats have retractable claws so any paw prints are unlikely to show claw marks making them easy to differentiate from the dog family Bobcat prints average just under two inches whereas the house cat averages about an inch in length. Bobcats will eat whatever they can catch but their major source of food it cottontail rabbits in the south and snowshoe hares in the north.

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