Utah has three species of native cats, the mountain lion, or cougar; the lynx; and the bobcat, a cousin to the lynx. All are solitary, secretive creatures that feed on small rodents, rabbits and other animals. The lynx can be found in forested areas, but the bobcat and cougar can be found throughout Utah, particularly in mountainous regions. The bobcat roams from Mexico to Canada and is fairly common throughout Utah, although rarely spotted as it is most active after dark.
A loner except when breeding, the bobcat shelters in hollow logs; small protective rock outcroppings and trees within various habitats including deserts, mountains and areas in between. In extremely rare cases you might catch a glimpse of a bobcat family, the male, female and litter of up to seven kittens. Together the parents feed the young until the kittens are ready to leave the den. The mother continues nurturing her brood until fall.
It isn’t unusual for the mountain lion to bring down a deer, bighorn sheep or elk. Numerous enough to merit the dubious honor of being hunted for sport, the cougar was once the most wide-ranging animal in the Americas. Cougar tags (the permit to shoot one animal) are highly sought after by hunters, but even rarer is the photograph of this magnificent creature in its native land.
The Canada lynx, on the other hand, is listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and only live in deep forests. If you see one, make sure you report it. Lynx sightings in Utah over the past twenty years are almost nonexistent. In fact, the Forest Service was thrilled in 2002 when it found lynx hair in the Mani-La Sal National Forest. Nonetheless, Utah is considered within the lynx’ range, which extends from Canada to Maine and the Rocky Mountains. Most comfortable in coniferous forests, its habitat continues to decline as logging, clearing and road construction encroach into more isolated areas. The lynx can be distinguished from a bobcat by its conspicuous ear tufts, long legs and over sized feet suitable for trekking through deep snow.