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2010-09-02 digital edition

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2010-09-02 / General Stories

Opportunistic Bobcats in Lee County

Over the past two years I have caught thirty nine bobcats in Lee County
By Ricky Cox

Kneeling down with the three o’clock sun at my back, I was putting tin around the bottom of my quail pen because something had started eating my quail right through the chicken wire. My cordless drill made plenty of noise as I screwed the tin into the wood frame of the pen… but that didn’t stop what happened next. I heard a chicken start squawking not fifteen yards from me and I looked up just in time to see a bobcat spin around toward the brush with a chicken in his mouth. I ran into the house to grab my shotgun, but when I returned he had already disappeared into the thick brush. That afternoon I set a couple traps for cats and over the next few days I caught five bobcats within twenty five yards of the house. I live in Adina just of 696 west.

The event was about seven years ago, but I still remember it like it was yesterday. I learned that bobcats are very opportunistic predators and don’t mind being in close proximity of human dwellings, even during daylight. As long as they have some brush nearby, they feel comfortable in ambushing unsuspecting poultry, kid goats, or other available food sources. They blend in so well with their surroundings they are basically hidden until they make their move.

I have received more phone calls this year than ever before about bobcats killing chickens, geese, guineas, ducks, and goats and almost half of those calls have been from people who live at the edge of town. They are always shocked that a bobcat will come into the edge of town and they are especially shocked that they come in during the day. They take great effort to sound convincing. I assure them that I believe them and they are not the first to experience this shocking sight. When they ask me about trapping them, one of my first questions is about how much land they have and how far it is to the nearest brush. The reason I ask is because it’s been my experience that predators are completely focused on their objective of catching their next meal and if the area is their normal hunting ground they become hard to lure into a trap.

It’s my preference to set traps in the brushy areas they travel through from their bedding areas to the location where they make their kills. They are more likely to be attracted by a call lure or visual attractor in those areas when they’re not focusing completely on their prey. It doesn’t take a lot of brush to provide enough cover for a bobcat to use as its travel route. Just the tree line between fields can provide the highway bobcats need to travel for long distances to approach the areas where they can obtain an easy meal. Those tree lines and edges of fields provide the perfect locations to make sets for catching them in route to their chicken buffet. After I find my locations I make my favorite cat sets using my fully modified Montana number three dogless traps and it’s only a matter of time before I’m seeing spots.

As towns grow and human dwellings move into what was once natural habitat for wildlife, encounters between predators and domestic animals will continue to increase. This increase in conflict between predator and domestic prey will continue to provide trappers with more opportunities to provide their services. Always remember to be aware of domestic pets and use good, fully-modified traps when trapping close to town. In this we can help promote trapping as a safe, effective way to remove unwanted predators without harming other animals. Good and ethical trappers hold the future to our ability to continue the sport we love while providing a valuable service to the public.

I volunteer as the Nuisance Animal Program Director for the Texas Trappers and Fur Hunters Association. The purpose of the TTFHA is to represent the Trappers and Fur Hunters of the State of Texas who are dedicated to the conservation of fur bearing animals; passage of sound fur bearing legislation; education of trappers and fur hunters in proper humane methods; promotion of the crafts of trapping and fur hunting; and promotion of the use of Texas wild fur. We provide a list of available trappers to the county agents around the state and our list is also published on the TTFHA website, www.txtrappers.com, under the “Nuisance Control Contacts” tab. I’ve had the opportunity to work on many different ranches around Lee County over the years and have seen many bobcats throughout the whole county. I even worked one ranch near Dime Box where the bobcats were killing adult deer. Over the past two years I have caught thirty nine bobcats in Lee County and several of those were real close to the town of Lexington.

Ricky Cox, TTFHA Nuisance Animal ProgramDirector

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