Bobcat on the Homestead
I’ve been waiting for him. Let’s call this bobcat “him.” Could be a female, I don’t know yet. I’ve been waiting for a bobcat to show up. We know they’re here year round but we don’t see them until mid to late February, when it’s been a hard winter or the snow is deep. The blizzard and subsequent storm provided the deep, soft snow. It’s unusually warm so the snow is compacting and dropping but still, I knew he’d come. I set up a bait site a few weeks ago and hadn’t been out to check it in 12 days.
The bobcat wandered through Sunday night and found the site. Something, probably an ermine, chewed the bottom of the onion bag and let the pork trimmings drop in chunks to the ground. The cat isn’t that hungry. It put no effort into reaching up for the pork or the fish hanging 18 inches away.
I’ve been waiting so the ducks and chickens are locked safely away in the coop unless I’m outside with them. I go out a little early for evening chores and let them out. The ducks have a bath and the chickens eat a little snow (why do they love snow so much when they’re not thirsty?) and then they put themselves back in for the evening. They might be a little bored but they aren’t unhappy. I’ll buy a half-dozen heads of lettuce and hang them from the ceiling to give them something to do.
He arrived first in the dark. He comes and goes often, was here in daylight on Tuesday, and back again at midnight. I brought more food out Wednesday morning and will check the site from a distance on Friday morning.
Although this is legally a bait site it’s not a site being hunted, and so the site doesn’t have to be labeled. Bobcat season ended February 21. I expected the coyote to stumble upon or smell the bait but to date the bobcat is the only large animal visiting.
Living With Bobcats
We killed the first two bobcats that killed our poultry. It’s our responsibility to keep our charges safe. When the third cat killed two ducks we learned how to live with not one but two cats. These tips should help you prevent attacks and make your homestead less inviting.
- Bobcats don’t want to be around our homestead. They show up only when the snow is soft and deep, they’re unable to hunt well, the snowshoe hare population dips, and the winter has been long.
- Put game cameras out and if legal, place bait to hold the cat’s interest in front of the camera. This will help you know what’s there. You can deal with what you know and by knowing, you can take extra measures to keep livestock safe.
- Keep livestock of all kinds behind sturdy high fencing. Cats climb and canines dig under. Add an angle extension at the top, leaning outside the pen, and bury 12″ of wire to deter digging.
- Have livestock guardian animals. LGD’s (livestock guardian dogs), llamas and donkeys work well.
- If it’s legal, feed a starving cat away from the homestead. We thought we’d kill the third cat but didn’t catch it in the act (legal requirement when hunting season is closed). Talk to your game warden or equivalent about what you can and can’t do. It kept the bobcat away from our poultry because it was no longer desperate enough to take its chances.
- Don’t feed pets and livestock outside.
- If someone’s up during the night hit the panic button on your vehicle’s key fob or blow an air horn. Bobcats hunt day and night. An active homestead is likely to be comfortable for a bobcat. If you’re not outside, hit that panic button now and then during the day. (We do this for bears.)
- Scare crows with human scent and clothes that move with the breeze.
- Have the dogs mark their territory, and you can as well. This bobcat marks its territory under the bait by peeing in the snow.
One camera says January but it’s February. I keep forgetting to change the date when I change batteries.
The bobcat moved away from the bait site and picked up the snowmobile trail into the food plot.