Bobcats Are Closer Than You Think 3 Feb 2016

Are you sharing your property with bobcats? You may never know unless you have a game camera or just happen to be in the right place at the right time to see one. Predatory wildlife tends to be pretty sneaky. It’s a jungle out there, and we are more a part of it than we realize.

Bobcats are most active a few hours before sunset until midnight then again before dawn until a few after sunrise. Hunting from three hours before sunset until about midnight, they take a break and begin looking for a meal again from before dawn until around three hours after sunrise.

Up until recently, my only bobcat sighting here was a brief glimpse as one scuttled quickly across the road. But, several years ago a brazen bobcat stalked down our driveway 100 yards from the house as though he owned the place. Walking with the stiff-legged gait common to bobcats, he was in no hurry as he sauntered along looking for a snack while my game camera captured a video by infrared light.

My guess is that my neighbor and I are sharing a bobcat. One appeared on my friend’s camera at about 7 p.m. Another night mine strolled by at 1:45 a.m., which was also about the same time our cat Hobbes used to wander each night. Hobbes must have either been very alert, or lucky. Bobcats like domestic cats for dinner, and old Bob was at least twice the size of our cat.

Ranging over a wide area of the United States bobcats are common in Texas. Small but powerful cats, they weigh 13-30 pounds and are 21 inches tall at the shoulder and 30-50 inches in length from their nose to the base of their tail. Their bobtail, from which they get their name, is only about 5-8 inches long.

If you can’t wait for your own bobcat sighting, Herman Power Tire Service in Nacogdoches has an excellent glassed-in diorama in their waiting room with a stuffed bobcat stalking a duck. It was shot near Pearsall, Texas years ago.

Mating season starts in February, and after about 60 days they give birth to 2-4 kittens, with the average litter being 3. Weaned at about 2 months, they stay with their mother until fall, and from then on they are on their own. A bobcat’s lifespan is only 7-10 years.

Fast runners and good climbers, they prey mostly on rabbits, but will stalk geese, ducks, squirrels, and insects. They creep up on their meal or wait quietly in ambush. Then they pounce. If you have any dealings with domestic cats, you know about the retractable needle-sharp claws your feline has. Bobcats carry the same weapons. Just walking around, their claws are retracted, but in attack mode, their hooked claws come into full play. Small dogs and domestic cats are also attacked and eaten. In short, if they can subdue it, they’ll eat it.

The list of predatory animals in our area is extensive, and most of them frequent the woods and sometimes the lawns around our home. They definitely include coyotes, foxes, bobcats, feral domestic cats, and dogs. There may also be an occasional cougar, and black bears are rumored to be returning. When you throw in hawks, owls, and snakes, the reality is that it’s indeed a jungle out there in the fields and forests of East Texas. And it seems the wild animals are moving closer to us all the time. Maybe right in your neighborhood. Now if we could teach predatory critters to get serious and kill large numbers of wild hogs like the ones that plowed my backyard last night, I’d be a happy camper.

Dr. Risk is a professor emeritus in the College of Forestry and Agriculture at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Content © Paul H. Risk, Ph.D. All rights reserved, except where otherwise noted. Click to send questions, comments, or request permission for use.