​​​2 Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem
Episode 4: Bobcat vs Lynx: Which is which?   
4 May 2018
The greater Yellowstone ecosystem is one of the few places where you can find both bobcats and lynxes in the wild. What's the difference? How can you tell which is which?
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JENNY>> Welcome to Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary. Now here’s your host, Gary Robson:

GARY>> Our big wild cat, the mountain lion, has two smaller cousins that roam Western Montana & Wyoming: the bobcat and the Canada lynx. They’re very closely related. In fact, their scientific names are Lynx rufus and Lynx canadensis.

LES>> Okay. A couple of canadensis and rufus.

GARY>> Yes, exactly! We have the most creative name in the world for our bobcat up at the Wildlife Sanctuary. We named him Bob.

LES>> Bob. Ah.

GARY>> Bob and Thor. Bobcats are found all over the United States and Mexico. Huge range. Very widespread cat. Lynxes are found mostly in Canada, but there’s this stretch down the Rocky Mountains where you find lynxes around here, and this is one of the few places where their territories overlap, and you see both bobcats and lynxes side by side, which means a lot of people can’t tell them apart.

Do you know how to tell them apart?

LES>> I have no idea. Their ears?

GARY>> Actually, that’s the first place everybody goes. The little tufts — the pointed tufts — on their ears.

LES>> That’s what I was going to say.

GARY>> They actually both have those, although they’re bigger on a lynx. They’re both tawny-colored cats, they’re about the same size — 15 to 30 pounds, they both have those fluffy “beards” —

LES>> — okay, yeah.

GARY>> One of the best ways to tell at a distance, aside from bobcats having more spots on their coat — this is one that you’ll be able to relate to:

LES>> Okay.

GARY>> If you look at a bobcat walking, its back is pretty much level.

LES>> Okay. And then?

GARY>> You look at a lynx and it’s like a jacked-up muscle car with its back end up in the air.

LES>> It’s kind of got like a grizzly thing going on? Something like that?

GARY>> Well, they’ve got these long, strong back legs, real powerful back legs that make their back slope down to the front.

LES>> Okay.

GARY>> I’m sure your first — what did you have, a Camaro?

LES>> Actually I had a GMC Sprint, and it had air shocks. So yeah, it was jacked up.

GARY>> Great big ol’ tires on the back. Well, they’ve got their great big ol’ legs on the back that help them jump. Also, if you get close enough to see, lynxes have these monstrous feet — they’re like snowshoes — because 90% of their prey is snowshoe hares, and they have to sprint across the snow to catch them.

If you get an even closer peek, you can take a look at the tail. Bobcats have those short, “bobbed” tails.

LES>> No tail, really.

GARY>> There actually is a couple inches — five or six inches of tail back there in the back, and they mostly wave it around or hold it up in the air. The tip of it is mostly white, with a little bit of black. A lynx’s tail is about half that length, and they mostly carry it down, like an un-spooked whitetail deer. You know, the tail clamped down against the back.

There are millions of bobcats in the United States, but nobody really knows how many lynxes there are.

LES>> Yeah, because they’re a little bit more rare.

GARY>> They’re classified as “Threatened” under Endangered Species Act of 2000, but U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is currently considering delisting them. The population, although small, is stable.

One of the main reasons for declines is loss of dense forest habitat and the fact that they just eat that one kind of food. Bobcats, on the other hand, will eat just about anything.

LES>> They’re not picky at all.

GARY>> No, they’re not picky. Whatever they can catch.
We have all three of the main wildcats of North America at the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary —

LES>> — So stop in and see and see! —

GARY>> — Mountain lion, bobcat, and lynx!

LES: Well, Gary, always good talking to you; always good finding out things about what’s going on there at the Wildlife Sanctuary and the animals that are there.

JENNY>> Thanks for joining us for Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, sponsored by the Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in Red Lodge, Montana. This podcast updates every Friday on iTunes, YellowstoneEcosystem.com, and the Sanctuary’s website, YellowstoneWildlifeSanctuary.org.

Thanks to our recording partners at FM99: the Mountain, where you can hear this show live every Wednesday at 8:22 a.m.

I’m your announcer, Jenny Van Ooyen, and I hope you’ll join me next week for another episode of Two Minutes in the Yellowstone Ecosystem!    
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