Could the bobcat, North America’s most common wildcat, become the country’s next big urban pest? With the ability to adapt to new environments, bobcats can thrive almost anywhere, maybe even in your own backyard.
According to a report by the Associated Press, these wildcats have been spotted making their homes in suburban areas, small towns, swamps, and corn fields. Apparently less elusive around humans, bobcats seem to understand that there is no shortage of food in cities. Their growing population is now triple what it was in the 1980’s; there are an estimated 3.6 million nationwide according to a study published in the Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management.
Bobcats have been the focus of research by wildlife ecologist, John Litvaitis, for almost 40 years. Litvaitis created a website dedicated to the resurgence of the bobcat, specifically in New Hampshire. The website features hundreds of amateur photographs of the sly cats being found sprawled out on lawns, stalking small animals such as squirrels, and seeking after their next meal.
“Complaints about bobcats preying on domestic chickens have increased, requests from the public to trap and relocate bobcats have risen, and instances of road-killed bobcats have become common throughout the state,” said Patrick Tate, a wildlife biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game Department in AP’s report.
Tate added, ”Many people enjoy seeing them, but for others they are a nuisance.”
With that, the major conflict arises: is their increase in population a success story to celebrate or a threat that must be dealt with?
While their appearances have been rare, there was a bobcat attack on a Blue Ridge hiker at Virginia’s Humpback Rock just last July. According to an article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the bobcat pounced on a man in his early 30s who was able to fight back as his hiking companion sprayed the bobcat with their bear spray, forcing it to flee.
Very few of the roaming bobcats are showing intention to harm humans though, as seen in the video below showcasing a family of bobcats in Plano, TX.
Whether it be an outrage or a solution, many states have bobcat trapping and hunting seasons made legal through the granting of a permit to regulate their growing population size. For more information on what the laws and regulations there are in your area, look to your state’s Wildlife Resources Commission.