How to Identify Bobcat Tracks

How to Identify Bobcat Tracks
Spend some time on your next hiking or backpacking adventure brushing up on your tracking skills. Bobcats are an elusive creature, and their tracks are an exciting find for novices or experts alike. Look for a few key factors when identifying a bobcat track, such as length, width, shape and absence of claw marks. Bobcat prints are easily confused with cougar, coyote and canine tracks, but with a little direction, you can master their identification.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

How to:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Measuring tape
  • Cardboard, plaster of paris and water (optional)

 Step 1

Measure the size of the tracks with a measuring tape or your best guess. Bobcat tracks are wider than they are tall and generally 1 3/4 inches long and 1 7/8 inches wide.
bobcat tracks
Step 2
Take a closer look to see if the print has claw marks. Bobcats keep their claws retracted while roaming unless they are pouncing, digging or running. The track should have four toes, with the second toe slightly longer than the third.
Step 3
Determine the shape of the track. Canines and coyotes make oblong tracks, whereas bobcats typically make a round print. The bobcat's ball pad should show a two-lobed border.
Step 4
Look at the heel pad of the print. A canine typically leaves an X print behind, while a bobcat has a C shape.
Step 5
Determine the length of the stride. Although the bobcat stride will differ during running, leaping or walking, it should be around 14 to 16 inches. However, it could be several inches shorter or almost a foot longer.
Step 6
Track the bobcat prints for several minutes to determine if it places its rear feet on top of the front foot print while sauntering.
Step 7
Take some cardboard and make an edge around the bobcat track. If you have the time and access to materials, pour plaster of paris and water directly into the track and let it harden for 20 minutes. Dig underneath the print to remove the plaster and let it dry for another 2 days before removing the cardboard. Study your keepsake print against photos of bobcat tracks to determine if they are a match.

Tips & Warnings

Foot traffic on the trails and a sudden shift in stride may disturb the uniformity and clarity of a bobcat track.
Do not step directly onto bobcat tracks and leave them for other hikers to enjoy.
Although elusive, bobcats can be dangerous. Do not closely follow or aggravate a bobcat or any other animal on the trail.


The Department of Natural Resources

Bobcat Tracks and Signs

How to Identify Small Animal Tracks

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