Wild Cats in Delaware


The state of Delaware has two native species of wild cats. These are the Mountain lion, (Puma concolor) and the bobcat, (Felis rufus). Mountain lions have been extirpated from the state for a long time. What’s more, although Delaware citizens occasionally report mountain lion sightings, there is no known breeding population of mountain lions east of the Mississippi River, with the exception of the Florida panthers, which reside in southern Florida.

On the other hand, bobcats are also native to Delaware, and like mountain lions, they are expatriated from the state. However, the three states that border Delaware, which are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, each have breeding populations of bobcats. Consequently, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that there are bobcats in Delaware as well.

We’ll talk in more detail about both of these wild felines in the paragraphs below.

Bobcats in Delaware (Felis rufus)

The bobcat, which is also known as the red lynx, the bay lynx, or the swamp tiger, is a North American wild cat. Biologists believe that both the bobcat and the Canada lynx are descendants of the Eurasian lynx whose ancestors crossed into North America via the Bearing Sea land bridge.


What do bobcats look like?

Adult bobcats are similar to their close relative, the Canadian lynx, in appearance, with some differences. An Adult bobcat is slightly smaller than an adult Canada lynx.

Compared to Canadian lynx, which thrive in deep snow country, bobcats struggle more in the snow due to the fact that they cannot walk on top of it as lynx can. A lynx’s large paws function like snowshoes keeping it on the snow’s surface. They have evolved this characteristic to hunt snowshoe hares in the winter. On the other hand, compared to lynx, bobcats have small feet that tend to sink into the snow. If the snow is too deep and powdery, it reduces their mobility along with their ability to catch prey.

A bobcat is roughly twice the size of an average house cat. They are 2 to 3 feet long and weigh 15 to 35 pounds. Adult male bobcats are around 33% larger than female bobcats.

These animals have a “bobbed,” short tail with black tips and black bars on the upper surface. The black tip on their tail is only on its upper surface but not the back. As opposed to a lynx’s tail which looks like it was dipped in black paint.

Their fur is usually gray to brown, with mottled dark spots that range from black to dark brown on their bodies. “A note on this is that in the eastern U.S., bobcats have fewer spots on their bodies than bobcats in the west do.” They also have black stripes on their inner forelegs and tail.

From a side view, you will notice that a bobcat is slightly higher at the rump than at the shoulders. Bobcats and lynx have long hind legs in proportion to their forelegs.

Bobcats have black-tufted ears. In other words, they have short tufts of black hair that poke up above their ears that are black at the tips. The backs of their ears, below the black tips, are black. In the center of the black of each ear, they have a single white spot. This gives the impression of a false eye on the back of each ear.

They also have a whiskered face that seems broader due to their prominent face ruff and whiskers. Their eyes are yellow with round black pupils.

In 2020, film footage of a rare black bobcat was taken near Danville, Vermont. See. These melanistic bobcats have all the markings that non-melanistic ones do. They manifest as darker black spots on top of lighter black or dark grey.

Where do bobcats live?

Bobcats reside only in parts of North America. They’re also the most common wild cat in North America. Their range begins in southern Canada and then extends south through most of the continental United States and down into central Mexico.

Bobcats were completely extirpated from Delaware by 1850 due to the destruction of their habitat. Other types of native wildlife, such as Mountain lions and black bears, disappeared from Delaware at about the same time. Today, the largest predators in Delaware are the coyote, the red fox, the grey fox, and the fisher.

There are occasional reports of bobcat sightings. This leads to the suggestion that their population may be recovering in the state. However, there are no bobcat sightings that have been confirmed by the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. If there are any bobcats in Delaware, they are not very numerous.

Bobcat sightings are rare partially because they are shy creatures and mostly a nocturnal or crepuscular animal. Your best chances of spotting one are in the early morning and early evening hours.

A Bobcat is generally a solitary animal. The exceptions to this generality are during breeding season and when a female is raising young. They are territorial and live in a home range that they patrol and scent mark with urine and feces.

The size of their home ranges varies with the geography and the availability of prey. Male bobcat home ranges are generally larger than female bobcat home ranges.

It’s also important to note that while female home ranges do not overlap with other females, a male bobcat’s home range might overlap with the home ranges of several female bobcats.

Other than their inability to cope with deep snow, bobcats are pretty versatile and tend to utilize all the different varied types within their range. Look for signs of wild bobcats in any rugged wooded area. They inhabit many types of habitat, such as rocky ledges, hardwood forests, swamps, bogs, and brushy areas. Less frequently, they exist in areas adjacent to agricultural land, and suburban areas. They also seem to thrive in wooded areas in close proximity to clear cuts. Studies show that small mammal populations increase in clear-cut areas. This is due to the improved food and cover conditions that a clear-cut creates. See

In urban surroundings, it’s not unheard of for a bobcat to stake out someone’s backyard bird feeder.

Bobcat pouncing on its prey
Bobcat pouncing on its prey.

What do bobcats eat?

Despite being smaller animals, bobcats are aggressive, tough predators. They are the personification of opportunistic feeders. They prey on a wide variety of wild animals. At times, particularly during the winter, they take larger animals that are quite a bit bigger than they are, such as deer. The state of Delaware is home to around 45,000 white-tailed deer.

Bobcats’ regular diets, however, mainly consist of small mammals such as cottontail rabbits, woodchucks, squirrels, chipmunks, and small rodents like mice, and voles. They also feed on reptiles, birds, insects, and carrion. When they take up residence close to residential or rural areas, their menu might occasionally also include domestic pets, small farm animals, and poultry.

Bobcats even use venomous snakes as food sources when the opportunity arises despite not being immune to the venom. They accomplish this by using their quickness to pin the snake’s head down with a paw, after which they dispatch the snake with a quick bite to its spine behind the head with their sharp teeth.

The state of Delaware has two venomous snakes. These are the Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) And the Northern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix) See

Reproduction and life cycle for Eastern Bobcats

Mating season for bobcats occurs between January and April. Bobcats are polygamous. This means that a male bobcat may mate with multiple females. 

If they successfully mate, the gestation period for bobcats is 60 days.

After breeding, the male and female go their separate ways. Other than in the exceptions of breeding and raising young, they’re solitary animals.

The female takes all responsibility for the selection of a den site and the rearing of the young.

Bobcats often use rock crevices as den sites but may also den in the cavity beneath an overturned stump or beneath a blown-down tree,

In Delaware’s neighboring state of Maryland, the bobcat litter size ranges from 1 to 7 kittens, but most contain 2-3.

Bobcat kittens are born with their eyes sealed, just like domestic cats are. However, their eyes will open when they are a week to 10 days old. By the time they are 2 months of age, they will have replaced their spotted baby fur with a haircoat similar to what their parents have.

By mid-July, the kittens begin to venture out with their mothers to fine-tune their survival skills. Their training may last into the early winter. By mid-winter, the kittens strike out on their own.

Female bobcats reach sexual maturity at 1 year of age, while males reach sexual maturity at age 2.

Are there mountain lions in Delaware?

It’s been a very long time since the presence of mountain lions has been confirmed in Delaware. These large carnivores are native to the First State, just as they are to the entire eastern seaboard. However, habitat loss due to human population growth and overhunting led to their extirpation sometime in the 19th century.

What’s more, eastern mountain lions had disappeared from the entirety of the eastern United States and Canada, with the exception of southern Florida by the early twentieth century. In fact, in 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the eastern cougar from their endangered species list and declared them to be extinct.

Most of the remaining mountain lion populations are in the western United States. The closest known mountain lion populations to Delaware are in Florida, Nebraska, and South Dakota, respectively.

Having said all the above, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that mountain lions come to the state of Delaware on occasion.

Young male cougars sometimes travel hundreds of miles from established breeding populations as they seek to establish their own territory, free from dominant toms.

A famous case of this occurred in 2011 when a male mountain lion traveled all the way from South Dakota to be struck and killed by a vehicle on a Connecticut highway. See

Mountain Lion perched on rock
Mountain Lion

What do mountain lions look like?

To visualize what a mountain lion looks like, picture a giant house cat with short, light brown fur. Mountain lions are much larger than domestic cats, though. Average house cats weigh in at around 10 pounds, while male mountain lions can weigh over 200 pounds.

These large cats have muscular slender bodies, rounded small heads, and upright ears that are oval at the tip. Another characteristic that mountain lions have is their muscular long tails, which account for almost one-third of the entire length of the animal. They use their long tail for a counterbalance, moving it from side to side as they navigate through uneven terrain.

Mountain lions have a tan coat of short, coarse hair over most of their body. The area around their nose, the tip of their tail, and the tips of their ears are black. Their belly, the area above their upper lip, below their lower lip, and their chin are all white. They also have a sprinkling of dark hair on their backs. There are some coat color variances between different geographic locations.

Mountain lions are the second largest cats in the Western hemisphere, smaller only than the Jaguar (Panthera onca). However, worldwide, the African Lion, ((Panthera leo) and the Tiger (Panthera tigris) are also larger.

Male and female mountain lions are phenotypically identical in every respect except for size. Males are 30 to 40% bigger than females. Though sizes vary considerably throughout the cat’s geographic range, an adult male typically weighs between 110 and 180 pounds, 50 to (82 kgs). A rare few of them grow bigger than 200 pounds (91kgs). Female mountain lions or queens average between 80 and 130 pounds (36 to 59 kgs). Adult males or toms will reach a length of 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 M) from their snout to the tip of their tail. On the other hand, adult females are 5 to 7 feet long (1.5 to 2.1 M).

Large cats but not big cats

An interesting fact is that while an adult mountain lion might be a large cat or maybe even a big cat, they are not taxonomically classified as big cats because they cannot roar. A Snow leopard, for example, is smaller than a mountain lion. However, since snow leopards can roar and cannot purr, they are classified as big cats, while mountain lions are not. Another interesting thing that I can mention here is that mountain lions purr.

Since they purr and cannot roar, mountain lions are in the Felis genus, while big cats that cannot purr and can roar are in the Panthera genus.

Biologists taxonomically divided mountain lions into two sub-species in 2017. The first is (Puma concolor couguar) or northern cougar. Northern cougars range through North America, Central America, and possibly northwestern South America. The second sub-species is (Puma concolor concolor) or southern cougar. These cats range only in South America.

Ferral cat
Feral Cat

Feral Cats in Delaware

Feral domestic cats are an increasingly large problem throughout the United States. This is true for the state of Delaware. For example, public officials believe that there are more than 10,000 free-roaming cats in the northern Delaware towns of New Castle, Newark, and Bear alone. See

These stray cats are an invasive species in the United States. It is estimated that feral cats kill 2.5 million birds in the United States annually.

Forgotten Cats is a non-profit organization that specializes in trapping, sterilizing, and vaccinating feral cats. You can find out more about them here.

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