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3 Types of Wild Cats in Idaho: Importance, Facts & Pictures

Written by: Christian Adams

Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

Adult Bobcat on the ridge

3 Types of Wild Cats in Idaho: Importance, Facts & Pictures

Idaho is home to a variety of wildlife and landscapes. Among the many wild animals that call Idaho home are three species of wild cats: bobcats, mountain lions, and lynxes. It can be quite exciting to spot a wild cat, so if you want to learn more about the wild cats found in Idaho, read on!

In this article, you will learn loads of details about each wild cat, making you somewhat of an expert (sort of!).

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The 3 Types of Wild Cats in Idaho

1. Bobcat Wild Cat

Bobcat during Winter
Image Credit: Jack Bell Photography, Shutterstock

Yes, there are bobcats in Idaho. They are a species of wild cat that ranges from southern Canada to northern Mexico, including parts of the western United States. In Idaho, they can be found in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Bobcats are shy and elusive animals, so people do not often see them. However, they are an important part of the ecosystem and help control populations of rabbits and rodents.

What They Eat

Bobcats living in Idaho mostly eat rabbits and rodents. They are nocturnal hunters and will also eat birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Their diet revolves around whatever prey is most available to them. In the winter months, they may switch to hunting deer and elk.

Where They Live

Bobcats are found in a variety of habitats throughout Idaho, including the rocky mountains near the timberline, desert areas, scrubland, and swamps. They are most commonly seen in the northern and central parts of the state but have also been known to inhabit the southeastern corner. Bobcats typically avoid areas with dense human populations but can be found in rural areas where there is adequate prey.

They are most active at dawn and dusk. Bobcats typically live alone or in pairs, but sometimes groups of three or four related individuals form. Females give birth to litters of two to five kittens in late spring or early summer. Kittens remain with their mother for about 8 months before dispersing to find their territories.

Bobcat peeking behind the tree
Image Credit: Laurie E Wilson, Shutterstock

How They Hunt

In North America, the bobcat is an adaptable predator that inhabits wooded areas, as well as semi-desert, urban edge, forest edges, and swampland environments. It preys on a wide variety of animals, from rodents to deer, but its primary prey is rabbits and hares. The bobcat hunts mostly at nightfall or dawn, stalking its prey until it is within range to pounce. A single powerful leap can bring the bobcat within 3 feet (0.91 m) of its target.

Why They’re Important

Bobcats play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to control populations of prey animals. By hunting and killing these animals, bobcats help to keep the population in check, which can have a positive impact on the environment. Bobcats also play a role in preventing disease by killing sick or injured animals that could spread disease to other members of the population. In addition, bobcats help to keep the ecosystem clean by eating carrion (dead animals).

2. Mountain Lion Wild Cat

Mountain Lion
Image Credit: Priscilla Du Preez 🇨🇦, Unsplash

Mountain lions are an iconic species of the American West, also known as pumas or cougars. In Idaho, these large predators once ranged throughout the state but are now only found in a small portion of their historic range. Idaho mountain lions are protected under state law and are managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Mountain lions in Idaho face many challenges. They compete for food with other large predators, such as bears and wolves, and often fall prey to human persecution. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to development is also a major threat to these animals. Despite these challenges, mountain lions continue to persist in Idaho’s wilderness areas.

What They Eat

Mountain lions are the largest predators currently in Idaho. They typically eat deer, elk, and moose, but will also eat smaller animals like rabbits, beavers, and porcupines. A mountain lion will typically kill an animal every few days and will consume about 20 pounds of meat at a time.

They are capable of taking down large animals like elk, which can weigh up to 700 pounds. Mountain lions will also scavenge carcasses left by other predators or killed by humans.

Where They Live

In Idaho, these large cats inhabit a variety of habitats, from the sagebrush steppe to the Rocky Mountains. Though they once ranged throughout the state, mountain lions are now mostly found in central and eastern Idaho.

Mountain lions are shy, solitary animals that typically avoid humans. However, as human development continues to encroach on their habitat, mountain lion sightings are becoming more common in Idaho. While most encounters with mountain lions are peaceful, these powerful predators can pose a serious threat to people and animals alike.

As Idaho’s population continues to grow, residents need to be aware of the presence of mountain lions in the state and take steps to avoid conflicts with these majestic animals.

Mountain lions protecting her young
Image Credit: outdoorsman, Shutterstock

How They Hunt

Mountain lions are some of the most feared predators in North America. That reputation is well deserved—these powerful cats can take down animals as large as elk. They stalk their prey through the underbrush, using their camouflage fur and silent stalking skills to get close before attacking with a lethal bite to the neck.

In Idaho, there is a healthy population of mountain lions. These big cats live throughout the state, from the dense forests of the Panhandle to the sagebrush steppe of southern Idaho. While they are most often seen alone or in pairs, mountain lions will form small groups called prides when there is an abundance of prey in an area.

Mountain lions typically hunt at dawn and dusk, when their prey is most active.

Why They’re Important

Mountain lions are an important part of the ecosystem in Idaho. They help to keep the deer population in check, which can help to prevent overgrazing and keep the forest floor clear of debris. Mountain lions also prey on smaller animals, helping to keep the rodent population under control.

Mountain lions play an important role in maintaining a healthy balance of prey species in Idaho. By controlling the deer population, they indirectly influence plant growth and regeneration. A study done by The Nature Conservancy showed that mountain lion presence can actually increase the number of trees and shrubs in an area. This is due to the fact that deer will browse less when mountain lions are around, giving plants a chance to grow undisturbed.

Large cats are also known to eat smaller mammals, such as coyotes, raccoons, and skunks.

3. Canada Lynx Wild Cat

canadian lynx wild cat
Image Credit: kenny goossen, Unsplash

The lynx, a wild cat species native to North America, has a small population living in Idaho. There are believed to be fewer than 100 still in Idaho, and only 40 have been officially recorded according to Idaho Fish and Game.

Lynx sightings are rare, as the population has long suffered from road building and logging, which has destroyed and fragmented their traditional habitats.

Though they were once hunted to near extinction for their fur, the lynx is now protected under the Endangered Species Act, and it is hoped that their numbers will continue to increase as they find new homes in Idaho.

What They Eat

In the wild, Canada lynxes typically eat snowshoe hares. These animals make up the majority of their diet, usually around 80%. The rest of their diet consists mostly of voles and mice, but they have also been known to eat squirrels, birds, and carrion. They will also eat vegetation on occasion, such as twigs and buds.

Where They Live

In Idaho, Canada lynx are found in the northwestern part of the state near the Canadian border. They typically inhabit coniferous forests with dense understory vegetation and deep snow cover.

Lynx populations in Idaho are believed to be stable. However, because of their low numbers and secretive nature, little is known about them. If you’re lucky enough to see a Canada lynx in Idaho, it’s sure to be a memorable experience!

canadian lynx
Image Credit: nicky pe, Pexels

How They Hunt

Lynx are solitary hunters and for good reason! They are adept at stalking their prey, like the bobcat and mountain lion. Also, since these wild cats are more active at night, this is when they are usually out hunting. The lynx also chases out its prey from bushes or other hiding areas and then pounces on them using their powerful leg muscles and sharp claws.

Why They’re Important

The Canada lynx is a keystone species in many northern ecosystems. Their large feet and long legs allow them to travel great distances over deep snow, which helps them to prey on other animals that might otherwise go unnoticed.

In addition to their role in the food chain, Canada lynx also help to keep populations of certain prey species in check, which can have far-reaching effects on the overall health of an ecosystem. For example, if the population of snowshoe hares becomes too large, they may strip the landscape of vegetation, leading to soil erosion and decreased water quality. Lynx help to maintain a balance between predator and prey, ensuring that ecosystems can function properly.

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We hope you learned some fantastic facts and educational tidbits about wild cats! While all three of these cats are predators, they each have different hunting and feeding habits. The mountain lion is the largest of the three, while the bobcat is smaller. The lynx is the smallest of the three and is only found in the northern part of Idaho.

If you happen to see one of these in the wild, remember that while wild cats may look cute, they can become a danger to you if you get too close. Keep your distance and respect their space.

Featured Image Credit: mlorenz, Shutterstock

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