The state of Maine’s 2 existing native wild cat species are the bobcat and the Canada lynx.
Mountain lions are Maine’s 3rd native wild cat species. However, they have officially been extirpated from the state. Some Maine residents will argue that the mountain lion also resides in their state. That could very well be the case, but it hasn’t been verified by wildlife officials.
We’ll talk about all 3 of Maine’s native wild cat species in the paragraphs below.
Bobcats in Maine (Lynx rufus)
The bobcat, which is also known as the red lynx, 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.
Bobcats reside only in North America. Their range begins in Canada. Central British Columbia is the furthest north that bobcats live. Their range extends south through most of the United States and down into central Mexico.
Maine bobcats live throughout the state except in the extreme north and northwestern areas. The severe winters and deep snow in northern Maine are limiting factors on bobcat populations.
Canada lynx thrive in deep snow country, but bobcats struggle due to the fact that they cannot walk on top of the snow like lynx can. A lynx’s oversized feet function like snowshoes keeping it on the snow’s surface. On the other hand, compared to lynx, bobcats have small feet that tend to sink into the snow. This drastically reduces their mobility along with their ability to catch prey.
Other than their inability to cope with deep snow, bobcats are pretty versatile and tend to utilize all the different habitats within their range. You can find Maine bobcats anywhere from deep woods to agricultural areas and or urban areas.
The sizes of home ranges for bobcats in Maine differ between males and females. Adult males utilize around 36 square miles. On the other hand, adult females need around 18 square miles.
What Do Bobcats Look Like?
An adult bobcat is slightly smaller than an adult Canada lynx.
A bobcat is 2 to 3 feet long and weighs about 15 to 35 pounds. Adult Female bobcats are quite a bit smaller than adult males.
These animals have a “bobbed,” short tail with black bands on its upper surface. Their tail also has a black tip on its upper surface but not the back. Their fur is usually gray to brown, with mottled dark spots that range from black to dark brown on their bodies. 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 ear tufts of hair that poke up above their ears and are black at the tips. The backs of their ears, below the black tips, are white. In the center of the white of each ear, they have a single black 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 long ruffled facial hair and whiskers. Their eyes are yellow with round black pupils.
What Do Bobcats Eat?
Despite their comparatively small size, bobcats are aggressive, tough predators. At times, particularly during the winter, they prey on animals that are much larger than they are, such as deer. However, their regular diets mainly consist of small mammals, reptiles, birds, and carrion. When they take up residence close to a residential area, their menu might occasionally also include small pets.
This doesn’t apply to Maine because although the state once had timber rattlers, it is believed that they have been expatriated from the state. There are currently no known venomous snakes there. However, I find it Interesting that in habitats with rattlesnakes, bobcats will prey on them even though they are not immune to rattlesnake 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.
Reproduction and Life Cycle for Bobcats
Bobcats mate anywhere from late February to late March. During the breeding season, 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. The female takes all responsibility for the selection of a den site and the rearing of the young. Females generally give birth between late April and early May. See
Look for maternal dens in a wooded area. Bobcats use features such as a rock outcropping, hollow trees or hollow logs, openings in the ground, the root masses of overturned stumps, or the space beneath a fallen tree as denning sites.
A bobcat litter consists of anywhere from 1 to 5 kittens. The average litter size, though, is around 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 old, 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 the mother bobcats 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, although they typically do not reproduce until they are 2. On the other hand, male bobcats reach sexual maturity at the age of 2.
According to the Maine Fish and Wildlife Department, there are records of male bobcats mating with female domestic cats.
It is my opinion that bobcats crossed with Maine coons would make some interesting hybrid animals. Maine Coon Cats, which are the official cat breed in the state of Maine, are known for being gentle giants and the largest of the largest domestic cat breeds in the world.
There is also genetic evidence that bobcats and Canada lynx occasionally hybridize. See
Canada Lynx in Maine (Lynx canadensis)
The Canada lynx is a medium-sized forest-dwelling cat. They live in the boreal spruce-fir forests in the mountainous areas of Canada and the northern United States. They are 1 of 2 North American members of the “Lynx” genus. The other one is the bobcat. There are around 1,000 Canada lynx living in the state of Maine.
This wild cat is sometimes also known as the Canadian lynx. Some other names for the Canada lynx used by old-time Mainers are loup cervier and lucivee. Both of the latter terms are French in origin.
Canada lynx ranges over most of Alaska with the exception of the Yukon –Kuskokwim River delta on the Bearing Sea and the southern end of the Alaska Peninsula. Source
They also range over most of Canada, with the possible exceptions of southeastern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, southwestern Manitoba, and coastal British Columbia. Although they venture beyond the treeline, they are absent from areas that are very far above it.
In the contiguous United States, there are resident breeding populations of lynx in Montana, Washington, Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Colorado.
Here’s a quote from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website, “In Maine, lynx are most common in the spruce/fir flats of Aroostook and Piscataquis counties and northern Penobscot, Somerset, Franklin, and Oxford Counties, where snow depths are often the highest in the state. Although lynx are more common in northern and western Maine, lynx have begun to expand into eastern sections”.
In the contiguous United States and Canada, lynx are protected under the federal endangered species list.
Canada Lynx Characteristics
What does a Canada lynx look like? The Canada Lynx shares a lot of physical similarities with its close relative, the bobcat. But the two also share some differences. First of all, lynx are slightly larger than bobcats. Adult lynx are up to 35 1/2 inches (90 cm) long and 26 inches (65 cm) tall. Additionally, they weigh up to 37 and a half pounds (17 kg). While the tail of a bobcat is short or “bobbed,” a lynx’s tail is shorter still.
Lynx don’t have the black bands on the topside of their tails that bobcats have. However, they do have a completely black-tipped tail. The black tip on a lynx’s tail surrounds the entirety of the tail as if the tail had been dipped in black paint. On the other hand, a bobcat’s black tip is only on the top side of the tail.
Canada Lynx have long, thick grey fur in the winter. By summertime, they have shed their grey fur and have a thinner, shorter reddish brown hair coat instead. Their color is more uniform than that of bobcats. While bobcats have black spots and mottled coloration over their entire body, Lynx are solid tan except for some mottled darker brown spots on their legs.
Canada Lynx have triangular pointed ears with black backs and long tufts of black hair on the tips. The hair tufts are much longer than a bobcat’s. They also have drooping flared facial ruff of white hair on the sides of their face beneath their chin.
Their eyes are green with round black pupils.
Lynx have long legs in proportion to their bodies, with their hind legs being slightly longer than their front ones. This gives their body a peculiar, downhill-sloped appearance.
Canada Lynx have almost comical-looking oversized fur-covered paws. They put their larger feet to good use. Their large paws function like snowshoes, allowing them to travel and hunt on top of the snow. Canada lynx feet can keep almost twice as much weight from sinking into the snow as those of a bobcat. This is why they range over the deep snow country of northern Canada while bobcats do not.
What Do Canada Lynx Eat?
Mice, squirrels, ptarmigan, grouse, ducks, deer, Dall sheep, and caribou make up a minor portion of a Canadian lynx’s diet in regions where these prey animals are available. However, over most of their range, their preferred food is Snowshoe hares.
Lynx and Snowshoe Hares
The Canada lynx is very dependent on snowshoe hares as a food source. In some areas, hares comprise 75 percent of their total diet. In fact, their population density is directly correlated with the snowshoe hare population.
Canadian and Alaskan Canada Lynx and snowshoe hares go through what is known as the Lynx-Snowshoe Hare Cycle. When food sources are abundant for hares, their population increases very rapidly since they can have several litters per year. When hare populations are at their peak, there can be as many as 1500 animals per square kilometer, ”3913 per square mile”. At this time, the population of Lynx and other predators are also at their peaks.
Reproductive Behavior and Life Cycle for Canadian Lynx
Breeding season for the Canada Lynx begins in late February and goes to early April. Lynx females are mono estrus, meaning they have one estrus cycle per year. Females mate with only one male and are in heat from 1 to 10 days. On the other hand, males may mate with multiple females.
Reproduction in Canadian lynx is directly affected by the abundance or lack of their prey animals. If they successfully mate, their gestation period lasts 56 to 70 days.
The pregnant female will typically make a maternal den beneath rock ledges, a fallen log, in the root tangle of a fallen log, or a thick tangle of brush.
Lynx kittens are sightless for the first two weeks of their life. By the time they’re 5 weeks old, they’ll be big enough to leave the den. Their mothers wean them when they’re around 10 weeks old, and at 10 months, they’ll go out on their own. Source
Female Lynx are sexually mature at 10 months old, but they generally don’t come into heat for at least another year. However, in periods of prey abundance, yearling females will breed and give birth.
Male Lynx reaches maturity at around 33 months of age.
The lifespan of a Canadian lynx is somewhere between 10 and 20 years in the wild. They can live over 20 years in captivity. See
Are There Mountain Lions in Maine?
The last confirmed mountain lion in Maine was killed in 1938. Along this line, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife says that no known cougar populations exist within the state. What’s more, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared that the eastern puma that once lived in Maine is extinct.
One last bit of negativity is that the only known cougar population in the eastern United States is in Florida. Down there, they call them Florida Panthers.
Despite all the reasons to doubt the existence of mountain lions in Maine that I just listed for you, common people without academic credentials keep coming forward with accounts of mountain lion sightings in the Maine woods. They describe a large cat with tan hair and a long tail. A percentage of these accounts are probably fictitious. However, I’m confident that the majority of them are made by competent, well-intentioned individuals.
Transient Mountain Lions
Sometimes sub-adult cougars, especially males, will travel 100s of miles from an established breeding population looking to establish their own territory.
An example of this occurred in 2011 when a young male mountain lion wandered over 1500 miles from South Dakota to be killed by a car in Connecticut. See
There is a possibility that similar occurrences are taking place in Maine.
So, are there mountain lions in Maine? Just my opinion, but they probably are in very small numbers. It makes life more interesting to speculate about the unknown.