Mountain Lion or Bobcat? Which one is it?

July 4, 2011 11:14 am · 85 comments

This animal (pictured above) was spotted by Northgate High School in Walnut Creek by our friend, “Nova7″, who also gave us a description of the animal, which we all know is either a bobcat or a mountain lion.

I was walking in Walnut Creek near Northgate High (on the paved trail just across Castle Rock Road). I spotted what I thought was a bobcat. I was able to take a couple of photos. When I got home, I looked up bobcats on the web, and found out that they have short tails. The photos are a little fuzzy, but this animal had a very long tail with stripes on it. If it was a Mountain Lion it was young because it only weighed about 30 pounds.

Look at the photos, and tell us what you think.

Was it a mountain lion or a bobcat?

CLAYCORD NOTE: We’re thinking it’s a bobcat.

1 Anon July 4, 2011 at 11:18 AM

No question it is a bobcat.

2 marinemom July 4, 2011 at 11:18 AM


3 SK July 4, 2011 at 11:22 AM

The reason we call it a Bobcat, is because the tail looks like it has been “bobbed” or cut off. It is a short tail. This is probably a young mountain lion.

4 Yolanda July 4, 2011 at 11:26 AM

I agree. I think this is a bobcat. A mountain lion would have a longer thinner tail and would have more rounded ears.

5 Differences between the 2 July 4, 2011 at 11:31 AM

I saw a big wild cat!
How can I tell if it was a mountain lion or a bobcat?

There are some key visual differences between mountain lions (cougars) and bobcats.

SIZE: Mountain lions average between 75 and 150 lbs, while bobcats average between 15 and 30 lbs. However, an exceptionally large male bobcat can be close in size to a small female cougar.

COLOR: Cougars are mainly one color (a tawny gold); bobcats are spotted or striped. One exception: cougar cubs are spotted (for camouflage).

TAIL: The most pronounced difference between the 2 species is their tail shape. Cougar tails are very long, at least half as long as their body length. Bobcats are named for their short “bobbed” tails, which are only a few inches long.

EARS: Cougars have rounded, wide-set ears. Bobcats have a very distinct tuft of hair on top of each ear which makes the ear look pointed.

FUR: Bobcats have a ruff of fur on their cheeks, while mountain lions have short fur all over.

6 kyburz66 July 4, 2011 at 11:31 AM

Looks like the Robertcat is hunting cornsnakes…

7 Pacheco Mom July 4, 2011 at 11:43 AM

Looking at the pictures. The ears and the tail tell me it is a bobcat. The ears are more pointed than a mountain lions and the tail is not a longs as a mountain lion. Like SK said the tail looks bobbed.

8 michelle s. July 4, 2011 at 11:46 AM


9 Chuckie July 4, 2011 at 11:46 AM

I saw a Bob Cat there about 12 years ago. I don’t know which of us was more scared. We passed each other up and went our merry ways.

10 Bfont July 4, 2011 at 11:46 AM

That is no bobcat. Nor a mountain lion, much too small. It looks like a wild fox, similar to ones i’ve seen in Briones. They are larger than you would think and have an almost canine resemblance.

11 IT July 4, 2011 at 11:48 AM

Bobcat – has a short tail!!

12 911code3 July 4, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Its small, only as tall as the first wire of the barbed wire fence, long tail, tan short hair.

Its a housecat

13 ratstalker July 4, 2011 at 12:04 PM

Bobcat. Amazing getting that many pictures of one.

14 b state July 4, 2011 at 12:11 PM

Downtown Walnut Creek – must be as “cougar”

15 coyote July 4, 2011 at 12:19 PM

Is it a Coyote?

16 ozziethedawg July 4, 2011 at 12:37 PM

looks just like this little guy

17 crazy cat lady July 4, 2011 at 12:47 PM

Looks like a very young Cougar. It’s hard to tell from the photos. I hope mom is’nt close by.

18 Strunk and White July 4, 2011 at 12:48 PM

It’s a whale.

19 mother of poo July 4, 2011 at 12:53 PM

I’m wondering if that is a cross breed. It has the face and coloring of a type of bobcat. It also looks a lot like a mountain lion but the legs are not think enough and that tail is too long. IT appears a lot larger than any house cat I have ever seen except for the Mainecoon which it very well could be.

20 Antler July 4, 2011 at 1:13 PM

Oh, for goodness sake, it’s a kitty cat! Tail is way too long to be a bobcat, and muzzle way too pointed to be either a Robertcat (good one, kyburz!) or a cougar. Look at dainty feet…….this is not any kind of wild animal cub. But it’s really cool that you let us see the pictures, Nova. 911code 3 at #12 called it in correctly!!!

21 anonmtz July 4, 2011 at 1:14 PM

This story has been picked up by MSNBC online, which should bring in an interesting cross-section of humanity to comment on this ….bobcat?

22 Pegasus July 4, 2011 at 1:15 PM

I taut I taw a puddy tat.
WHO said that?

23 me July 4, 2011 at 1:19 PM

It’s a Bancroft Bobcat :)

24 Cuppa Coffee July 4, 2011 at 1:24 PM

awwwwwwwwwwww, Pegasus, that would be Sylvester. You’re just pulling our whiskers, aren’t you?

25 skull July 4, 2011 at 1:27 PM


26 Miss Lisa July 4, 2011 at 1:29 PM

anonmtz #21,
It’s no surprise to know you’re a watcher / follower of MSNBC. Explains much about your thinking or lack thereof. Ummmmm kool-aid …………

27 anonmtz July 4, 2011 at 1:39 PM

Pegasus 22

Mel Blanc (for Tweety)……….maybe?

28 Brotherchaos July 4, 2011 at 1:42 PM

Come on, that’s just some guy in a suit

29 Brotherchaos July 4, 2011 at 1:59 PM

I’ve seen cougars up close, definitely not a cougar, not even a adolescent. Looks more like a bobcat, but it’s too small and skinny and the tail is not bobbed. It’s not a fox, it has feline hind legs. Most cougar and bobcat sightings are actually domestic cats, so that’s what I’m thinking, though it is a very nice looking cat.

30 slagheap July 4, 2011 at 2:03 PM

you had to ask a blog about a snapshot of an animal that is so clearly, obviously, and without reservation of any kind, a bobcat? why didn’t you just wiki it or something? why not ask any school kid? incredibly lazy or stupid – sorry, it’s got to be said.

31 MeryT July 4, 2011 at 2:09 PM

Ask Gary Bogue at the CC Times, he will know!
This is not a Maine Coon, we have a 20lb MC and they look nothing like these pics…..

32 : ) July 4, 2011 at 2:17 PM

WOW! Uve been showing sum really cool pic’s lately. fortunately, ive never come across any of these furry felines. although they are beautiful from a distance.

33 Norma Flaskerud July 4, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Not bobcat; not a bobbed tail. Not a cougar; wrong build. I agree it is probably a teen-aged mt. lion. Very pretty and great photos!

34 Mjordan July 4, 2011 at 2:25 PM

I think it’s a liger.

35 Funny Man July 4, 2011 at 2:29 PM

Hmm, I’m not an expert but looks like it might belong to the Felis Catus Domesticus family! :D

36 anonmtz July 4, 2011 at 2:31 PM

anyone notice the odor of old warm cheese??…..

oh, it is just Ms. Lisa, nevermind.

37 No Mistake July 4, 2011 at 2:41 PM

That is definitley a Bobcat. As with any living thing, you can have some abnormalities. this one appeares to have a slightly longer tail. If you closely at the bottom left picture, you can clearly see the face.

38 Bob/Feral cat? July 4, 2011 at 2:43 PM

Is it possible for there to be a cross between a feral cat and a bobcat?

Not a mountain lion. Tail is too short, and ears too pointed, and only babies have spots.

Spots and ears are like bobcat.

Can there be a cross with a bobcat and feral cat?

39 Pegasus July 4, 2011 at 2:54 PM

anonmtz #27,
Congrats, you win the coveted “Tweety Bird Prize”. That and $10.00 will get you the coffee drink of your choice from your local Starbucks.
You must be nearly as old as I to remember that. :)

Now for the second part of the puzzle;
What studio produced that popular cartoon?
a. Warner Bros
b. Disney
c. Looney Tunes
d. MGM
e. Paramount
f. Other
No fair looking it up, this is a memory test. :)

40 It is possible to have a cross w/feral July 4, 2011 at 2:54 PM

Here is a website of gorgeous cats that are a hybrid domestic/lynx or domestic/bobcat. However, the price can be prohibitive – up to $45K!

41 Miss Lisa July 4, 2011 at 3:04 PM

anonmtz 36,
Touche ……………
Happy 4th

42 anonamel July 4, 2011 at 3:04 PM

I think it’s likely a hybrid between a bobcat and a feral cat…

43 Sick of BBQs July 4, 2011 at 3:08 PM

LOVE the comments today! Particulary #14 (b state) and #34 (mjordan)

44 annonomos1 July 4, 2011 at 3:10 PM

It’s a bob cat, I was at a home up at the top of castle wood and a bob cat came down to drink out of the fountain. He/she was beautiful, they’re much smaller than a mountain lion.

45 slagheap July 4, 2011 at 3:34 PM

the mayor refused to post my initial, perhaps un-civil or uncharitable, comment, so i will attempt another:
congratulations on the outstanding, thrilling shots of that instantly recognizable bobcat! there are many bobcats living in the great mt. diablo region. now, if it were me, and i had some ( inexplicable, in view of the high quality snaps, ) doubts about the species of the animal, i believe i’d have consulted that internet thingy, and observed the untold thousands of photos of bobcats and mountain lions, both adult and juvenile, therein. then i could have posted something like ” got great pictures of local bobcat! ” etc. etc. etc.

46 CES July 4, 2011 at 3:37 PM

Forsure BOBCAT. Bobcats can have pretty long tails. Up to 6 inches. I’ve personaly seen several bobs like this. The one in the pic is small, but this is no house cat.

47 slagheap July 4, 2011 at 3:42 PM

oh, my bad, mayor DID post my first comment…guess i’m feeling guilty about the name-calling – wildlife lovers are to be encouraged, not disparaged.

48 Pegasus July 4, 2011 at 4:41 PM

Cuppa Coffee,
Bzzzzzzzzzzzz, You lose but thanks for playing. Sylvester was the cat Tweety Bird spied provoking the well known phrase.

49 Concord Dave July 4, 2011 at 4:48 PM

It’s a cross between a German Shephard (color) and a Doberman (ears). Come’on people, haven’t you ever gone to a nature museum? You live in Calif. There’s lot’s of wildlife and places to tell you about them- think Lindsay Museum. Fun place to visit and very informative. You don’t have to have nieces, nephews, or grandkids to enjoy it. Longtime native- BOBCAT!!

50 Dangerous July 4, 2011 at 5:17 PM

It’s a bobcat! City slickers!

51 anon July 4, 2011 at 5:36 PM

Our family votes 3-1 for the ID as a Bobcat. Tail looks longer than a Bobcat though. 1 votes for a Savannah cat or another type of domestic cat.

52 anon July 4, 2011 at 5:40 PM

We clicked on the photos to increase their size and get a better look. The photos with the kitty looking into the camera certainly appear to be of a Bobcat. We have a question about the photos of the kitty skipping away from the camera – is there a fresh kill carcass in the middle of the road close to the Bobcat?

53 jw wildlife solutions July 4, 2011 at 6:04 PM


54 Grumpy Old Man July 4, 2011 at 6:08 PM

Hey Folks! That is my lost kitty Phred…all he wants is a chili dog and a Bud! Please… leave him in peace!

55 felino misterioso July 4, 2011 at 6:16 PM

It appears to be some type of spotted coat, pointed ear, docked(bobbed)-tail felino.

56 G July 4, 2011 at 6:26 PM

It’s a LIGER!!!!!!!! Duh

57 Wildlife Biologist July 4, 2011 at 6:26 PM

Oh my gosh! The lack of education in the flat landers.

That my friends is a picture of a corn snake.

58 Mexican July 4, 2011 at 6:28 PM

That is a creature rarely seen. My people call it the CHUPACABRA. Look it up on Wikipedia.

59 Cuppa Coffee July 4, 2011 at 6:35 PM

Pegasus @#48, Yep, and I realized I had read the question wrong the minute anonmtz @27 gave the correct answer……”I did. I DID tsee my toopid mistake!!!” (Don’t mind losing to anonmtz. He’s one of my favorites.)

But I am “pretty” sure the studio was Warner Brothers……except wasn’t Looney Tunes a trademark/subsidiary of Warner Brothers?

60 @slagheap July 4, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Did it ever occur to you that sometimes the Mayor posts questions just to stir up interesting debate?! You have to admit that reading some of the comments is rather entertaining. I he just posted “here are some photos of a bobcat” then there wouldn’t be nearly so much interaction.

61 MO July 4, 2011 at 7:13 PM

This is a Bobcat.
They come in varieties now…even with longer tails…I’m not sure they are as coyotes who breed with domesticated dogs, and are part feral……..but they are all over the farm here…more this year than usual.

We don’t have feed in the loafing shed on the barn now, (brings raccoons and other small stuff that makes good food for larger meat eating animals)…as we are renting our pastures to a cattleman who has Texas Longhorns….and I’m not much worried about the cats and wolves….those Mama’s have such huge horns…long with a twist…………I am not sure if they’d fight off an animal getting their babies, but I guess they would. So…we are not seeing a lot of new baby calf attacks. (our biggest issue is human and poaching).

This kitty is a bobcat variety….sneaky, mean and deadly.

62 Miket July 4, 2011 at 7:31 PM

OK, I’ve researched this, and it is a communist plot to over throw our government, and I’m fairly sure it’s George Bush’s fault.,

63 Pegasus July 4, 2011 at 8:53 PM

Cuppa Coffee #59,
You are correct, it was Warner Bros and yes Looney Tunes was part of WB.
You win the right to join with anonmtz at Starbucks for coffee. However you should provide your own straw.

64 Scoots July 4, 2011 at 8:58 PM

That could be a very small skinny bobcat with a longer than average tail………. but I’ll bet it is a mix breed. I’ve never seen a wild bobcat that I had to guess about.

65 Gwen July 4, 2011 at 9:47 PM

Good lord that is a bobcat!!

66 Anon July 4, 2011 at 9:54 PM

Who cares GTFO!

67 a linx? July 4, 2011 at 10:04 PM

or do they not live in CA

68 SillyGooose July 4, 2011 at 10:27 PM

100% Its a bobcat….

69 RunnerDope July 5, 2011 at 12:26 AM

I vote bobcat. I have seen a few at close range near Castle Rock Park. They do not seem to fear humans. I have also seen a very large one on Lime Ridge that I thought at first was a mountain lion.

70 RunnerDope July 5, 2011 at 12:28 AM

Forgot to mention that I’ve never seen one with a tail that long, though.

71 canus homosapian July 5, 2011 at 7:49 AM

@ Norma #33

Mountain lions ARE cougars…


72 Nova7 July 5, 2011 at 8:28 AM

@52. No, there wasn’t any fresh carcass nearby. This is a horse trail, and there is lots of horse poop in the area.

Also, unfortunately I didn’t get a very good photo of the tail. It was very long, with horizontal stripes.

73 beautiful July 5, 2011 at 12:44 PM

Cool picture. Definitely a bobcat.

74 Joanna July 5, 2011 at 2:54 PM

It is a Bobcat. I have seen them before in that area. I keep a horse out there and while driving home one day a Bobcat ran into the ranch’s driveway. I stopped and looked at it before it ran off into the creek. It was about the same size as a full grown Labrador Retriever. It had no interest in being anywhere I was. Thank goodness. I try to keep in mind that they were here before us.
If anyone has any fear while hiking in that area (coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats…) I highly recommend carrying pepper spray. Best wishes and happy hiking. :)

75 Anon July 5, 2011 at 3:57 PM

A black panther. I’m a 100% sure!

76 No time today... July 5, 2011 at 4:03 PM

Sorry, I didn’t have time to really read this blog but before the days end I’d just like to add it looks like a cross between a cornsnake and a chupacabra. Booyaa!!

77 Spotted this one outside Olive Garden July 5, 2011 at 4:05 PM

…nuff said…

78 Dennis July 5, 2011 at 5:05 PM

maybe this is a bobcat cross-bred with a housecat, husky (tail curled over back), and ring-tailed raccoon?
I suspect it is running from the horse, whose droppings are bigger than it is (photo 1)!

79 Dennis July 5, 2011 at 5:58 PM

AKA Platypus Polecat

80 Walnut Creek resident July 5, 2011 at 8:52 PM

I taught I ta a puudy tat..No It looks like a baby tiger, or a baby mountain lion or a bobcat… what ever it is it is wild and we need to keep an eye out!!

81 Concernicus July 5, 2011 at 9:41 PM

bobcat. unless youre blind, in which case it would be a walrus.

82 WC RES July 5, 2011 at 11:46 PM

no concernicus…… you should be ashamed of yourself… where is your
sense of humor? Making fun of blind people and then your
really silly comment about a walrus… bad really is a puddy tat a really large puddy tat!!!. Lighten up

83 Concernicus July 6, 2011 at 12:45 AM

@WC RES: no. no, it’s definitely a walrus.

84 Antler July 6, 2011 at 9:22 AM

Johanna at #74 ~ ~ ~ What you describe having seen going onto ranch property is FAR too large to have been a bobcat. You may have seen a cougar (mountain lion), a not-uncommon sighting anywhere near the mountain…..some quite a bit smaller than others, depending on their age. My husband sees cougars when he’s riding the trails out from Morgan Territory Road. The horse does not even spook, but will stop as though on point until my husband nudges him on…..funny because the horse HATES the turkey flocks and especially the wild pigs (but of course they let him get closer than the cougars do).

BTW, for reference I am looking at a beautiful, fully-grown mounted bobcat on our study wall. (It was a door prize at a function my husband attended in Nevada, where such mountings are legal.) It’s muzzle is much more rounded than in the pictures the Mayor posted; the bobcat’s coat is fluffier, the ears have a pronounced pointed tuft at the tips, and the coloration pattern is very spotted. But the biggest, most definitive difference is the size and shape of the paws. The bobcat’s paws have large pads (and would look even proportionately larger on a young cub). BTW, bobcats do carry the tail high just as the cat in the pictures is doing; our mounted bobcat has a short tail, but that does vary between individuals. I’ll meet folks halfway and say it could be a cross-species breeding between a feral cat and a bobcat. And I’m loving this kind of banter…….because there’s no way we’ll ever KNOW, is there?

It’s exciting to get a glimpse of a wild creature living free and doing what it’s supposed to do. That said, please be kind to your DOMESTIC cats and keep them indoors; we do and they are perfectly happy, relaxed and active, with very few vet bills. My wildbirds unlimited thank you! Happy day, all!

85 Cuppa Coffee July 6, 2011 at 9:36 AM

Pegasus @#63,
anonmtz seems more like a Peet’s Coffee man. And it’s mean of you to make me start drooling for one of their frosty Mocha Freddo’s. We don need no steeeeenkin straw.

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