Bobcats are a medium sized member of the cat family residing in the United States. They move like a house cat, have a bobbed tail and vary in color from brownish black to a reddish brown depending upon just where the cat is residing. These animals are secretive and move about primarily during the evening and late night hours prior to sunrise. Their numbers have been on a steady increase and encounters with bobcats are not nearly as uncommon today as they were just 10 years ago. Abundant rodent populations have enabled this predator to rebound across our nation and though generally not a problem, bobcats will prey upon local birds, cats and dogs. Control methods must be employed when they start killing local pets and livestock. This article will detail some basic biology about bobcats and then offer several solutions which can be employed to help get this mysterious and sometimes destructive predator under control.
Other information: PEST ARTICLES
BOBCAT BIOLOGY *
Bobcats are 2-3 times the size of the common house hold cat. They are clearly stronger and tougher looking which is easy to see when they are observed in the wild. Males are larger than females; it is not uncommon for bobcats to reach 40 lbs or more in weight. Bobcats can be found in any of the lower 48 States of America. They will readily live in river bottoms below sea level and can be found almost two miles up in certain mountain ranges.
Bobcats are generally secretive and shy and will almost always see you before you see them. They like to travel at early evening, throughout the night and return home in the early morning around day break. Bobcats will keep an average range of one sq/mile but will travel more if food requirements make them move about further. Since they don’t mate for life, males will seek females during mating season which causes them to travel great distances. Many times this forces them to relocate altogether abandoning old ranges. Most breeding seasons start in January and will run for several months depending on the region. Females will carry young for 2-3 months and litters typically have 2-4 kittens. Bobcats grow rapidly but they still take a full 1-2 years to mature. Average life is about 12 years in the wild.
Bobcats keep very specific travel patterns along with very specific territories. These territories are marked with urine and other scents excreted by the adult cats used as both markers and mating communicators. Once territories are established, adults will travel along trails daily looking for food, other bobcats and anything else which is spotted that piques their curiosity. Bobcats will feed on a wide range of food including something as small as a lizard to something as large as a deer. They will readily eat rabbit, chipmunk, rats, mice, squirrel, porcupines, gophers, prairie dogs, woodchucks, opossum, raccoon, domesticated cats and dogs as well as several reptiles or amphibians. Bobcats love birds and will readily feed on quail, pheasant, turkey, grouse, chickens and any other flying animal which makes itself available. Bobcats will readily make any local farm a sure stop feeding on several types of livestock as long as it is readily available and doesn’t offer too much resistance.
BOBCAT PROBLEMS *
It is because of their predatory feeding that bobcats get into trouble. When left alone in the wild they are barely noticed; once they are found killing livestock bobcats will be targeted with a vengeance. They will readily seek sheep, poultry, goats, game birds, turkey, fish, calves, cats and dogs. This behavior is costly to farmers and cattlemen and since bobcat will many times kill and not consume their prey immediately, they are perceived as wasteful. In fact bobcat will hide or leave their kill for a later date returning every day or so to grab a meal. Though they may eat a mouse or rabbit at one sitting bobcat rarely do this with deer or sheep. Instead they will make the kill, feed a little and then hide it away by covering it with sticks, brush, dirt or anything else they find close to the kill which will serve as a protective cover. It is this characteristic which makes them easy to trap using several methods which will be explained later in this article.
Bobcat activity is easy to spot because they leave large cat foot prints where they are walking. Animals killed by bobcat will have large claw marks on their backs and shoulders. Bobcats will begin to feed on large animals around the ribs or the neck and shoulders. Unlike the marks of a coyote which are rough and look as though the meat has been torn apart, bobcat will cut through flesh and bone quite smoothly. If you have found pets or livestock killed by a bobcat look for the claw marks along with a bite into the neck or head. These marks will be specifically located on the animal where such bites would have a quick lethal effect. Coyote hunt in packs and many times targeted animals suffer from many bites as the pack attacks from all sides.
Although hunted for their pelts, bobcats are more likely to be pursued because they are either causing damage to local livestock or game animals. Farmers, pet owners, hunters and cattlemen have all called bobcat their enemy. Though several are shot during any one year, most states don’t have hunting season for bobcat. Trapping is how most are controlled. Local ordinances will have trapping seasons that vary from a month to half a year. However, predatory animals which are causing destruction can generally be controlled at any time. Over the years control methods have included everything from leghold traps to snares to live traps. The next part of this article will detail these methods and offer suggestions and guidelines as to which are better suited given different situations.
BOBCAT CONTROL METHODS *
There are several types of traps which will work for bobcat control. Most require the traps be set with certain tricks of the trade and though the author will explore these tricks, if you are serious about trapping bobcat you should invest in one of the BOBCAT BOOKS we sell. These detail more of what you need to look for when bobcat trapping. It comes with some great photos, a lot of reference material which enables you to know a lot before you ever start to trap bobcat and certain tricks of the trade. The reading is easy, to the point and helpful. One thing you will quickly learn is that most trap sets will include the use of BOBCAT URINE and BOBCAT LURE. The urine is used a lot by adult bobcat for marking territory, marking dens, making a statement to other bobcat and for marking their food. Bobcat lure is used for much of the same reasons. In some cases the use of both these materials is helpful; in other cases none is required. The use of these materials is widely discussed in the handbook and for anyone who has trapped coyote or fox you probably have a basic understanding of how to employ these scents. Whether you are a novice or a pro, using both Urine and Lure can be a big asset. If used incorrectly it can alert a cat that something is not right making them all the more hard to trap.
Bobcat Lure: http://www.bugspraycart.com/traps/lure/bobcat-gland
BOBCAT REPELLENT *
Before we get into all the options you have for trapping bobcat, there are two devices we carry which can be used to keep them away from your home.
The first device is perfect for applications around small ponds where pet fish are kept. Bobcat love these ponds and will frequently clean them out in a night or two. If you have built such a pond and want to keep bobcats from fishing out prize turtles or fish, set up a MOTION ACTIVATED WATER SPRAYER on one side of the pond. This device has a motion detector which is able to “see” 24 hours a day. It connects to your garden hose and has a stake for sticking it securely in the ground. Once set, it has a range of about 105 degrees and will “look” for any motion from warm blooded animals. Once spotted, it will release a three second blast of water at the animal.
Bobcats hate this and will quickly run away. They might try to move in from another angle but generally a couple of blasts from the garden hose and they’ll stay away for good. This device can be hooked up in series with several heads around your pond all ready to work at chasing away an unwanted predator like a bobcat. And since they can be set to spray around the clock, you won’t have to worry about local otters, dogs, cats or predatory birds from feeding in your pond.
BOBCAT ULTRASOUND REPELLER *
Another device that can be used to repel bobcat is an ULTRA SOUND YARD GARD. These devices can be set to release a continuous sound or a sound that’s actuated by motion. The sound most effective for cats is a high pitched ultra sound meaning it’s not detectable by most humans. This sound is irritating and alarming to cats in general and to bobcats, a warning to stay away. Deploy these in areas you want to keep bobcat free. They can be set to run by battery or by the included AC adaptor that comes with every unit.
BOBCAT TRAPS *
If you decide you are going to trap your targeted bobcat, there are several which you can use. The trap used over the years the most is the LONG SPRING # 1.5 and LONG SPRING # 2. This is the original leghold design which has been used in many sizes over the years to trap just about any game animal. It works well for bobcat and can be very effective when used properly. However, a more recent design called the Coil Trap is probably used more today because it is both easier to set and slightly smaller in design with equal jaw size. COIL # 2 TRAPS are usually big enough but in some northern regions, the COIL # 3 is needed. Both long spring and coil traps are used the same way for similar sets. If you ask any one trapper their preference you could conceivably get a different answer for every set you could name. This is because they both work well and can be used interchangeably. Good sets include trail stepovers, food locations or flagging. Stepover sets are made on bobcat trails. Since bobcat will travel the same trail over and over, the concept of the stepover set is to place a log or rock in the middle of the trail causing the animal to step over it. Locate the trap on the other side where the cat will most likely step. Bobcats don’t like to walk around anything and will very seldom detour from their normal path. Stepovers can be made without urine or lure.
Long Spring # 1.5: http://www.bugspraycart.com/traps/long-spring/long-spring-1-5
Long Spring # 2: http://www.bugspraycart.com/traps/long-spring/long-spring-2
Coil Trap #3: http://www.bugspraycart.com/traps/coil/coil-3
Food location sets can be done by using an existing bobcat food pile or by creating one yourself. By taking some common animal or other food and placing it under dirt, leaves, sticks, ground cover, etc you are effectively mimicking the behavior of bobcats. The targeted animal will naturally be curious and get itself trapped once it starts digging up your artificial placement. These sets can be made a lot more effective with the use of both lure and urine. Such food locations are generally always marked and will need to have some scent applied for sure if it’s a fake mound being created for the set. Flagging is another set which works well for bobcat. Place an animal part, hide or feather along the bobcat trail out in the open. Hanging it out in the open for all to see is needed and should be done. Cats rely on their sight more than scent so having the “flag” highly visible is a big help. Directly below the feathers or animal parts you can have either a coil or a longspring trap set. Covering it ever so lightly with some loose sand or ground cover may help but is usually not needed. The use of some animal parts to add scent will help as well. This type of set takes advantage of Bobcats intuitive behavior to act like scavengers which feed on dead animals.
Den sets are another very effective location where you can make a set. Such sets should be made where you know bobcats are living. You can tell if it is active by inspecting the den for fresh track, food, urine, gland scent or by seeing bobcats using it. Either longspring or coil traps will work for this type of set but another type of trap which works well for this set is the BODYGRIP TRAP. These are true kill traps which will effectively crush the head of any animal which tries to pass through the open jaws. Bodygrip traps come in several sizes and are used for many animals. Many of the sets made for these other animals are done over den entrances and such a set works well for bobcat. Bodygrip traps can also be used where bobcat are known to be passing through a hole in a fence or where they are crawling under one. These passageways are ideal locations to place a Bodygrip since the animal will routinely attempt to pass through as it has so many other times before. All of these locations are also great areas to make a set with some SNARES. The big difference with a Bodygrip and a Snare is that the Snare will usually catch the bobcat alive where the Bodygrip will kill the animal. Snares also cost less but they do require a lot more experience to use. Furthermore, animals will be caught alive which means you will have to deal with a very angry and aggressive bobcat on your hands. In most cases you don’t want to be using any scent with either a Bodygrip or a Snare.
BOBCAT LIVE TRAPS *
Since bobcat can be hard to deal with once trapped in one of these leghold or snare traps, you might consider the use of a live trap to catch local animals. These heavy gauge steel cages are made to hold large strong animals and will do so quite well. You could use an LT151842 but the LT152248RD is a better bet because it is taller. Live trapping has become a lot more common as the way of catching bobcat in live traps has been developed. Years ago this was not an option. However, as bobcat behavior has been studied, ways of luring the smart wary cats into cages has been tested and perfected. There are two things that should be done if you want to get a cat quickly. First, conceal the trap. Do this by using pine straw or hay bales. Place them on both sides, the back as well as the top of the trap. Try to create a “cave” like look which bobcats will regularly enter. Be sure to cover the wire on the bottom of the trap with whatever the ground cover is where you are making the set. This could be some straw, hay or dirt. It is also good to locate the set close to brush, undergrowth, structure or anyplace where bobcat will feel comfortable walking. Don’t place it in the middle of a large field – it’s not likely to get any cats around it unless you know there is a trail there being used by your targeted animal.
Live Trap 15x18x42: http://www.bugspraycart.com/traps/cage/live-trap-15-x-18-x-42-rear-door
Secondly, the use of any type of meat from bird to squirrel to beef will help to lure the animal inside the trap but something alive will work even better. One of the best sets to make is to use some hardware cloth or chicken wire to create a “shelf” on the top third of the trap against the back wall. Use a live pigeon or some other bird as the bait by wiring it to the back of the cage. It is best to attach the wire to the birds leg and give it just enough slack to keep it sitting on the shelf. This will prevent it from setting off the trap as well as keep it moving enough to attract the attention of any passing bobcat. Other animals can be used but the key is to have something which will move on a regular basis and yet be controlled enough to keep it in position without getting hurt. An easier solution is to get the LT152248RD and have us add a LIVE BAIT CAGE to it. This option can be wired in so you are able to place a bird, squirrel or other small animal inside by removing the back panel of the trap and opening the Bait Cage. Once the bait is placed inside, close the cage, put the back of the trap back and make your set. In most any case, the use of live bait will prove to be the best type of attractant when live trapping Bobcats.
If you decide to live trap and make your set as detailed above, you should be sure to inspect it daily. Bobcat will travel through their territory at least once every few days and if you are not able to get any interest than you probably need to relocate the trap altogether to another run. Bobcat have a hard time resisting the opportunity of a small meal and will certainly attempt to get at your offering so you will need to be prepared to relocate the animal once trapped. Whether you catch the cat in a live trap, a leghold trap or a snare you will have to either destroy the animal or relocate it with the use of a CATCH POLE. These devices enable the animal handler to get control over trapped game and move them from one point to another. Most animals are moved by attaching the catch pole around their head and over their necks. This will enable you to keep the animal a safe distance away yet at the same time keep it under control.
Bobcat are a predatory animal which can exist alongside man without ever being seen. They have tremendous eyes and will avoid people at all costs. If you have one on your property and it is feeding on livestock, game birds or something else you hold dear than you will need to trap them out with one of the traps we have detailed above. Get our hand book, learn how to make some basic bobcat trap sets and then go ahead and try your luck. There are many traps you can use with many more sets that can be made. Once you have their trails well defined you should be able to trap out any which are causing damage. Once removed be sure to keep your eyes open and be ready to deal with the next one that moves into the territory.
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