BACK FROM THE BRINK – Click for more information on bobcats
For several years in a row, we had a resident family of bobcats. One year, they bred in the next door neighbor’s shed, and twice they bred in my teepee. The neighbor’s shed and my teepee have been gone for a while now and we haven’t seen the bobcats in three or four years. But Garry and the Duke, out on the deck feeding birds, spotted one this morning.
The Duke saw him first. Usually he barks down at where the squirrels are waiting, but he was barking into the woods. Garry looked — and there he was.
New England’s bobcats are relatively small compared to western bobcats. They are about the size of a very big housecat, maybe a Maine coon. However, they do NOT look anything like a housecat. When you see one, you will know it’s nobody’s pet. The don’t walk like a housecat and nothing you can adopt looks nearly as much like an ocelot or maybe a small leopard, minus the long tail.
They are solitary. They mate after which the male and females separate. Mom does all the raising and feeding of the offspring.
Bobcats have reflective eyes that at night look — I swear — like lanterns. Their eyes shine and let them see in the dark. I know there’s a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, but when you see it, it’s crazy. I watched one of these cats hunt all around the woods near our yard. I didn’t have a camera — I never have a camera at moments like that — and I didn’t want to go and get one, so I just watched.
Bobcats eat a lot and move on when they have eaten everything they can find in an area. Bobcats are direct competitors with coyotes, but unlike coyotes which will eat almost anything, will eat only meat. Bobcats are why we don’t have chipmunks or rabbits. The chipmunks had resurged recently — and then suddenly vanished. A bobcat in the area explains why.
Bobcats ate all the rabbits. We haven’t seen a single rabbit since the arrival of bobcats. I haven’t seen our woodchuck recently either. I thought he was hibernating, but now I’m hoping the bobcat didn’t eat him, too. He was a very happy, plump woodchuck and I had grown quite fond of him.
The squirrels are hiding — or have been consumed. I hope they are hiding. I only noticed the absent squirrels because the feeders, which the squirrels typically empty of every last seed, are still half full when I get up. The squirrels are safe from the bobcat if they keep to the high levels in the trees. Bobcats climb, but are much heavier than squirrels, so as long as our squirrels don’t hang out near the bird feeders, they’ll be okay. I have noticed bobcats usually hunt on the ground, but they do hang around places with bird feeders in case a squirrel gets careless.
I should mention that a bobcat has no compunctions about attacking things on our deck. I had one come over our roof and jump down next to me on the deck one summer evening. He (she?) scared the life out of me. Bobcats can climb almost as fast as a squirrel, though they need bigger, stronger branches.
I also remember the day I opened the flap to my teepee and out popped a bobcat. She looked at me. I looked at her. I then excused myself because while I might outweigh her, she has claws and teeth with which I would not like to tangle.
Bobcats are audacious. They like nesting near houses and are surprisingly unafraid of humans. They’d probably nest in our house if we’d let them. They are also smart enough to know the dog is fenced in and can’t get them. The last bobcat we had used to sit on the other side of the fence while the dogs barked hysterically. After a while, he’d stroll — slowly — away. Not afraid of me or the dogs. All that being said, I’m glad our bobcat is back. I’m always happy when I see signs that wild creatures live in our woods.
By the way, if you are worried about small burrowing animals messing with your lawn, a bobcat in residence will take care of the problem fast.
In all my encounters with the bobcat, some very close and personal, never have I had a camera in my hands. It figures, right?
Categories: #animals, #WildCreatures, Anecdote, Wildlife
We live “out” in the middle of an unmanaged forest, with maybe ten acres of fields. We don’t always see bobcats, but the footprints are distinctive. Now and then one will happen by, searching for apples, squirrels, or whatever he can find…
I suspect any animals that disappear are more the work of the fisher, a nasty huge weasel that will consume anything it can catch, from skunks to housepets to deer, porcupines, and woodchucks. We used to have woodchucks under my storage shed. We used to see foxes, both the red fox and the adorable little greys; we had porcupines that would gently accept apples if you offered them one. We had a fisher in the yard a few summers ago, he nearly got my 13 lb. half coon cat. And now all the other animals are much scarcer. Sadly.
Do you have turkeys? Our population of wild turkeys fluctuates from year to year. This year we have seen flocks of as many as 50. gleaning the fields as they go. I would imagine the bobcats and coyotes love that…=)
We have them all. We are also in a woods. We own 2.5 acres, but attached to us are about 50 acres of state owned conservation land — wetlands.
We have bobcats and they have raised litters in my teepee and our neighbors shed — and eliminated ALL our rabbits and chipmunks. But we also have coyotes who like to howl in our driveway and don’t sound anything like the coyotes in western movies. AND we have fishers. We used to have a big dark brown one that like to sun himself on our back lawn — one of the few places that gets some sun — and my son finally shooed him away. He wouldn’t let us use the backyard and would hiss at us when we tried to make him leave. I think Owen finally took out the BB gun and that stings.
Then there are the hawks. We’ve get big hawks and the small ones that like to eat smaller birds. We also have owls, but we only hear them. We have a LOT of predators and not nearly enough prey.
There are massive numbers of wild turkeys here and around your area, more than you would believe. Luckily for us, there are farms nearby. The turkeys hang out there because they get food for free. For some reason, the farmers like to feed the turkeys. For all I know, they eat them on holidays.
We haven’t seen a rabbit in years. We used to see them sunning themselves in the backyard, but the bobcat finished them off, probably with assistance from the rest of the fang gang. As long as they don’t attack me or our dog, I’m okay with letting them do what they do. I hate that they eat the small cute furry creatures, but everything needs to eat. We have one big woodchuck and I’m betting there are more down under the hedge. After the last passing through of the bobcat, we had no chipmunks. They were just coming back, but now the bobcats are back and I haven’t seen a chipmunk in months. We also have skunks, but as far as I can tell, the predators leave them alone, though we got a strong whiff of one the other night, so something got one. It was at night, so it was probably a coyote.
It’s winter. Food is scarce. The only thing I feed are the birds — and not the bigger birds because I can’t afford it. I can barely afford to feed US anymore.
I forgot. We also have foxes. I thought they were a lot smaller than they actually are. They are probably a solid 40 pounds of dog!
Bobcats are returning in SoCal too, particularly since P-22 learned how to cross the freeways and find mates on the other side. We lost P-22 a short while ago, and there are large vigils for him occurring all over Los Angeles. As that happened, there were 4 more kittens discovered.
It turns out, bobcats are highly adaptable and if we don’t kill them for their pelts, they manage to live wherever they are — climate notwithstanding. They’ve adapted from their original terrain to any terrain they find themselves in — including backyards. They are also very smart, assertive, and apparently afraid of nothing. Their biggest problem is finding enough to eat. They are permanently hungry and they eat a LOT.
Between the bobcats and the hawks, ALL the rabbits are gone as well as the chipmunks and I suspect quite a few squirrels. They will also — as will coyotes and eagles — eat pet cats and small dogs. Duke is (fortunately) too big. They can leap fences. The can leap from our deck to the ground — about 30 feet — in one graceful arc.
They are quite amazing to watch, so I’m happy they are back, though I’m pretty sure the chipmunks and squirrels are not nearly as thrilled.
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Much as I hate to disillusion you, bobcats in this area have been known to attack people and, in one instance, to kill a woman who was walking alone on a trail. Coyotes will attack anything that moves, including larger dogs and people. — Duke may not be too big for our coyotes This may be global warming at work, as the animals are hungrier, or there may be some additional factors at play. There has also been an increase in predator populations since the pandemic — when people went indoors, the animals learned that they were once again the fiercest animals in the area!
Your bobcats are much bigger than ours — about twice the size of New England bobcats. Your bobcats weigh as much as our dog, but our weigh as much as a very big housecat.
Coyotes are always dangerous, especially because they WILL take down pretty big dogs. Duke is a wimp. If he senses danger, he dashes home and in through the doggy door which is NOT big enough for a coyote. The coyotes howl in our driveway at night — but will only attack people if they feel threatened. Otherwise, they run away.
There isn’t enough for any of the predators to eat. We have too many predators and not nearly enough prey. I suspect the coyotes take down small deer when they can, but deer are too big for lur little bobcats. We have an overabundance of deer . There’s never enough for them to eat, either Apparently our hydrangeas weren’t sufficient. Even an extended hunting season doesn’t kill off enough of them.
I personally dread hunting season. They shoot too close to our houses.
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No — I wouldn’t like having deer hunted close to the house! So far I know of only one small herd of deer close to population in this area.
We have a lot of them around here. Last summer was bone dry and they ate anything that was edible — everything except those strangling invader weeds which apparently even a starving deer won’t eat. I suspect some of them died, but any that made it through the summer will have plenty to eat now after all that rain. We see them if we are up very early the in the morning. The deer aren’t far. Basically they live in our backyard.
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How wonderful to wake up and see deer in your back yard!
It is very heartening.
Looks like a feral cat. But dangerous
Not dangerous to people and otherwise, only very small dogs, pet cats and other small warm-blooded creatures. Probably larger birds, too. I have never heard of one attacking a human, though I would not want to crowd a mother bobcat and her kittens. The predators keep down other animals — rats and mice, chipmunks, squirrels, porcupines, maybe skunks if they can grab them before they spray. They are very much a part of nature’s balance.
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Yes, nature has created a wonderful balance.
The South African version of a bobcat is called a Caracul. We dont get them where I live but we did have a hyena in the local park once.
Hyenas are really BIG. These guys weigh maybe 14 to 15 pounds. Caraculs are also quite a bit bigger. A very small carcult is about the size of a very large bobcat. Caraculs are beautiful. According to the San Diego Zoo, they are quite heavy for their size, but are the smallest of the wildcats in Asia. They are called lynx, but really aren’t. Like bobcats, they are small feral cats and I’ll bet, like the bobcats, they can eat their own weight in smaller animals.
What makes our bobcats unique is how they have adapted to changing climate and habitat and will live almost anywhere except maybe in a big city. They are commonly seen around here and in many other exurban and semi-rural areas. They are also not afraid of dogs or people. I’ve stood at my door yelling at one to move on because he was teasing the dogs and they were absolutely hysterical. He totally ignored me.
He could have gone over the fence without breathing hard. They are amazing jumpers. He easily vaulted from my roof to the deck and then to the ground — two graceful leaps of about 30 feet per leap — 30 feet = 1 story on a house. He couldn’t EAT the dogs. They were a bit too big AND there were five of them back then. Even for a bobcat, that’s too many dogs, so he didn’t bother to jump the fence. He apparently enjoyed teasing them, though. Very smart cats! Too bad they aren’t tameable — and in any case, it’s illegal to keep a wild animal — ANY wild animal — as a pet in this state unless they are injured and can’t survive in the wild.
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Hi Marilyn, thanks for this extra information. It is a good thing that people can’t keep wild animals as pets in your state. In South Africa, it is allowed and it never turns out well. The wild animal sanctuaries are full of animals that people bought as pets and have had to give away because you can’t tame them and they often turn on people. I have seen three leopard cubs and a few tigers which were acquired as exotic pets. It always amazes me how people will acquire a ‘pet’ without finding out anything about it beforehand.
This is a pretty good background. I always feel obliged to do at least minimal research on everything.
They are pretty animals and some people make the mistake of keeping them as pets until they start eating the livestock. You cannot tame a caracul..