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Bobcats Scent Marking

bobcat marking 202Like most cats, the bobcat is territorial and largely solitary. There is some overlap of males’ home ranges and they use several methods to mark territorial boundaries and to communicate with other bobcats. The signs of these methods include claw marks on trees, scrapes (mounds of soil and leaves scraped with the bobcat’s hind feet and formed into a pile that is marked with urine or scat), deposits of urine or feces and secretions from both mouth and anal glands.

Scat is frequently found in the same location, usually in conspicuous areas along travel routes, or near a den. (One monitored marking site contained 254 bobcat scats.) Resident bobcats also scent-mark with urine (one to five or more scent marks per mile) , squirting small amounts on rocks, bushes and snow banks as they travel. These scent markings function as biological bulletin boards within and between home ranges. In addition to marking territory, the scent markings are a means by which female bobcats claim a den, transient bobcats avoid resident bobcats, and bobcats find a mate.

When a bobcat encounters the scent mark of another bobcat, it raises its head with its mouth half open, nostrils closed and upper lip slightly curled back. This behavior is called the flehmen response. The bobcat inhales the scent into its mouth, where its vomeronasal organ detects molecules of the marker’s pheromones, which helps identify the marker and indicates, if it’s a female in estrus, whether or not she is ready to mate.

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9 responses

  1. Mary, do you know if bobcats wash themselves after meals like the domestic cat does?

    January 16, 2015 at 11:36 am

    • I honestly have no idea, Eliza, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all!

      January 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm

  2. Penny March

    How many species of mammal have a vomeronasal organ? I knew about deer and elk but did not realize that carnivores had them also.

    January 16, 2015 at 12:34 pm

  3. Penny March

    Looked it up—there are many, many animals–even hedgehogs!!

    January 16, 2015 at 12:46 pm

  4. Jean Harrison

    I went to a talk night before last on bobcats, with many wonderful photos. I didn’t realize there was such variety in the colors and markings of different bobcats. I was amused to hear descriptions of the bobcats “flaming”. I thought maybe I was just hearing slight mispronunciation, but that’s the way it was written in some legends.

    January 16, 2015 at 10:14 pm

  5. Is the vomeronasal organ the same thing as the Jacobson’s gland found in bighorn sheep, for example?

    January 17, 2015 at 6:36 am

    • Yes, Hazel, the vomeronasal organ and Jacobson’s organ (found in many animals, including snakes) are one and the same thing.

      January 17, 2015 at 7:54 am

      • I didn’t know so many species had the same thing! Thanks!

        January 18, 2015 at 6:34 am

  6. anastaciast

    Thanks for this blog. I love the photo. I’ve yet to see a Bobcat in the wild in Nebraska, but in Georgia they are common road kill, sadly. But it shows they have quite a population.

    January 17, 2015 at 3:59 pm

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