The elusive bobcat roams much of North America completely undetected. There are over one million in the country, yet humans rarely spot them. But human development into bobcat territory may increase the likelihood of an encounter. Find out everything you need to know about bobcats in Texas, including where they live and what you should do if you see one.
About Bobcats in Texas
There are two subspecies of bobcats in Texas: the desert bobcat and the Texas bobcat. However, they are so similar that only experts can tell them apart. The bobcat is about twice the size of a domestic cat. Its bone structure is larger, especially the head and legs, and it’s more muscular with better springing. Its pointed ears are tipped with black fur tufts that help improve hearing; how exactly is unknown.
Most of these wildcats have brown or brownish-red fur with white underbellies and bobbed tails with black tips. Their hair is short, soft, and desirable for pelts, but Texas heavily regulates trappers. On average, bobcats weigh between 15 and 25 pounds, with males reaching 35 pounds.
Texas predators to the bobcat include mountain lions and coyotes, but its excellent vision gives it a chance to survive. It can see perfectly day and night, with the ability to detect even the slightest movement in lowlight situations. Bobcats may be smaller compared to the bigger cats, but their ability to jump 10 feet allows them to take down prey as large as a deer. They then tear and slash with their claws and strong bite. They also enjoy making a meal from deer, other domestic animals, mice, rabbits, and poultry.
Bobcats are solitary and will avoid crossing each other’s paths when hunting. Females will also pick remote dens to give birth and raise their litter. Mating begins in February, and litters of two to seven are born in the spring.
Where Do Bobcats Live in Texas?
The desert bobcat is in West and Northwest Texas, and the Texas bobcat is found everywhere else. Bobcats are in almost every county in the state, but they are most abundant in the South Texas Brush Country. Despite their significant population, you may not come across too many.
The bobcat has a very secretive nature and developed senses that keep it on high alert for nearby predators, especially humans. It’s also nocturnal, meaning its most active times are when people are less likely to be out. You can usually tell if a bobcat is close if there are scratches on tree trunks, which it uses to sharpen its claws.
Its preferred habitat is in forested country areas or the plains region, but it is highly adaptable and will inhabit various environments. Bobcats are well known in the coniferous forests of Eastern Texas but will also occupy the rocky regions of Edward’s Plateau and the Southern and Western plains. They are also common in the cliffs and canyons of the Trans-Pecos area.
Bobcats thrive in most places, including urban developments, as long as there is adequate concealment. They typically build their shelters in thickets, hollow trees, or a cliff crevice, where they rest during the day before beginning their hunting around sundown. Spanning a range between two and five miles from their shelter, they usually hunt from roads or trails. They are also active year-round and do not hibernate.
Are Bobcats Aggressive?
In Texas, there is at least one bobcat per square kilometer. They go relatively unnoticed because of their shyness and need for concealment. Because of this, bobcat attacks on humans are virtually unheard of, and they live near large human populations without incident. There has never been a fatal incident from a bobcat encounter.
However, bobcats can contract rabies, making them aggressive and act out of character. There are occasional reports of humans being clawed and bitten by rabid wildcats, and they may also attack when they have cubs nearby and feel threatened. There is a more significant concern of a bobcat preying on pets and livestock than humans. However, most pets get attacked by coyotes and free-ranging dogs.
What You Should Do if You See One
In the improbable event you come across a bobcat in Texas, take these steps to prevent an attack:
- Keep your distance, and don’t approach.
- Back away slowly without turning your back to the bobcat.
- Don’t run. Running triggers the predator/prey instinct, causing it to chase you.
- Make a lot of noise. You can yell, hit a stick against a tree, or use whatever you have at your disposal to be loud.
- Spray it with water. Like domestic cats, bobcats dislike water.
- Notify animal control if the cat is in a residential area.
Are Bobcats a Problem in Texas?
There are around 200,000 bobcats in Texas, and their numbers are steady. It may be frightening to know you live so close to wild animals, but as far as aggressive wildlife goes, bobcats are the least of your concerns. They keep themselves hidden so well that you may never see one. But this doesn’t mean that bobcats can’t cause problems.
In rural country areas, where they are more likely to reside, they can become pests in farming areas. A farmer’s livestock is an easy meal, especially smaller prey like chickens and other fowl. And with the expansion of urban and suburban neighborhoods, you may encounter them more often in more developed areas.
While you may not have farm animals in your backyard, bobcats can also prey on pets like small dogs, cats, and birds. The best way to prevent animal attacks is to avoid leaving small pets unattended or letting them run freely on trails near bobcat country. If you have livestock, lock all the animals away at dusk and use deterrent lights to scare them off.
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