Wednesday, January 30, 2013

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our special kitty
The bobcat situation is a mess. He was back nine times today starting at 7:30 in the morning and most recently just a few minutes ago. The poor chickens go berserk, the goats get agitated, and Mark or I run outside and chase him away. We carry a baseball bat now; that cat is big. No more chicken deaths, though, because they're locked in the coop.

Yesterday, I visited the county web site to see what our options were and called one of the agencies listed there. The woman I talked to was well-meaning. Well-meaning to bobcats.

I briefly explained our problem, asked for suggestions. Her reply began with lines to this effect: "One of the reasons we all love living in this beautiful county is the abundance of wildlife. Have you heard the coyotes at night lately?" She asked the question with joy and wonder in her voice and I should have ended the call right then because we were so clearly tuned to different stations.

She told me that bobcat control is not about removal, but coexistence. She warned me that to trap and relocate an animal it is both inhumane and illegal. I had not brought this up, but apparently she worried I might I start looking at Havahart traps online, which of course I had already done. According to her, we need to either get rid of our own own animals or erect insuperable barriers, like "coyote rollers," that would be installed on top of our existing fence at considerable expense. Then she pointed out that if we have overhanging trees, which we do, these will allow the bobcat access to our backyard no matter what barriers are in place, including coyote rollers or an electric wire.

He stalks around the coop as the chickens have a collective nervous breakdown.
In short, she had nothing to offer. The bobcat can kill every chicken and goat on the premises and there's nothing we can do about it. Legally, he seems to have the run of the place. Is this possible? Did I misunderstand something? I will make more calls if the reign of terror continues much longer.

Every time that bobcat came back today, I hated him a little more. Forcing people to accept the presence of aggressive predators in their backyard does not breed respect and awe, it breeds rage. I would add that a wild animal who subsists on pets in a suburban town is not living a very wild life.

I know this is a sensitive and controversial subject and some people have strong feelings on the other side and I respect that. Let me assure you that no harm will come to this cat at my hand. The plan is to keep the chickens in their coop for the indefinite future and hope the goats are too big to tempt him. I will chase him off as necessary. By May when Natalie kids, maybe he will have forgotten about us or moved on or been hit by a Prius.
He can write about this on his college applications.

28 comments:

  1. Do you have a dog? Dogs barking usually scares bobcats away.

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  2. Sorry for your stress--and the chickens' stress too. The encroachment of wildlife is becoming a problem all around, sadly, given that developers seem to think that any land without a strip mall, subdivision, or a ten-acre concrete parking lot is under-ultilized. I no longer bike to work through the huge park that borders my home and the college where I teach, because the critters (bobcats among them) are just too numerous! I have had a lot of near misses with skunks, too. Hang in there! I hope the bobcat goes his own merry way (or her merry way).

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  3. Jennifer, is there a company you can hire to do it? We don't deal with bobcats in NY, obviously, but with all kinds of other critters that have threatened our dogs, including coyotes...and we make a call, the havahart traps get put up, and we generally get another few trouble free years.

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  4. Yes, trap it (or shoot it, if you have the ability/nerve/ruthlessness.) I love wildlife, but when it eats your pets, it is no longer wildlife. I used to live in a coyote-rife area, and I'd see them once or twice a week, loping down the street, trawling for cats. I liked them, but I had indoor cats. If one of my cats had escaped the house, and if a coyote had taken her, I would have boiled with bloodlust (as I did with the possum who eviscerated my beautiful Eva Marie, which cooled into relocationlust.)

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  5. As I posted yesterday, please do not attempt to trap this bobcat, you will get hurt. Not to mention what to do with an angry bobcat in a cage, I mean seriously what would you do? Call wildlife relocation services, and I am sure you have tried this, and keep calling until you find a practical down to earth person to talk with who has a sensible plan for you. And a word of caution, watch your kids being in the back yard, or outside even. Wild animals get used to humans quickly and we are a food source to them. I wish I had more helpful advice, but where I live the solution would be to shoot the cat by the local police or state troopers, not what I would want to do but that is the law. There used to a wildlife rehab center near Eureka. Maybe they would know who to contact for help. Good luck and keep posting.

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  6. If possible, consider overhead netting for the entire backyard. Large mesh deer net is cheap, strong, and fairly easy to set up, as long as there are sturdy anchor points such as a fence and a deck. It doesn't have to be stretched taut, but the mesh has to be large enough that the critter can't walk on it, yet small enough that it can't slip through. (This is how I protect our koi ponds.) If that's unworkable, try modifying the fence roller concept by attaching a 2x4 on the top of fence posts to extend the height by about a foot. With 3-4 nails on each extension, knot 'weed trimmer' plastic line between the posts. Imagine a fence topped with barbed wire, minus the wire and barb. The principle is that the animal will no longer be able to balance on the fence, and will be confused and repelled by being brushed in the face with nearly-invisible plastic fiber.

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  7. That's a nightmare. Even without chickens, I'd be mighty uncomfortable having a predator in my backyard. Would they do something about it if you had a toddler? (Not advocating you borrow someone's child--actually curious if that would make a difference.)

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  8. http://sanfrancisco.crittercontrol.com/services/bobcatremoval.html

    this company seems to think trapping and removal is THE solution.....hoping you get a rational human on the line soon.

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  9. From Ida: Okay, first things first - GREAT pictures! And I couldn't help but laugh at Owen doing homework with the baseball bat, and your caption about him putting this on his college applications! Still chuckling, actually! Practically, I vote for the "relocation plan" - this is a territory thing, and you should be the biggest predator in your back yard. Call someone to trap and transport him; he is beautiful, but (fill in the blank). Good luck and keep posting!

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  10. Thank you for all your suggestions, they're very helpful. It is supposedly illegal for ANYONE to relocate the bobcat, including a trapping company. They are required to relocate the cat 100 feet from where it is trapped, which is not much of a relocation. I need to look into this further, though. No one can expect us to live with this animal stalking around our yard all day. I would not let my 3 year old nephew go outside at this point. Racccons, skunks, possums -- I can deal with them. They're a nuisance, but they can stay. This is different.

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  11. I have nothing to add to this conversation but: Good Luck Tipsy!!! That cat looks scary!

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  12. I have heard that having your menfolk urinate around the perimeter of the disputed territory (literally the pissing contest) is effective. Worth a try.
    What a nightmare. I wish you luck with it.

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  13. Another option would be to try a motion activated sprinkler (Google electronic scarecrow). They cost about 50 bucks, so it would be a reasonably cheap experiment. Some on-line sellers claim they deter bobcats, but I'm a mite skeptical that a big cat would be permanently scared away. But really, probably the best thing to do is to visit a farm supply store and ask The Old Guy Who Knows Everything. You can bet they must be asked about this problem all the time.

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  14. Animal Control won't get rid of it? I'd say you've got tiny children in your care (which may or may not be true) and a wild animal that attacks animals that are their size is not acceptable. If a child got attacked by a bobcat in your backyard will the wildlife patrol (or whoever it is) take responsibility for the medical and/or funeral bills if you have called and complained repeatedly?

    This is sooo not okay.

    xox

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  15. How about a poisin pill, er chicken? Or call back to the nice, helpful lady and ask if maybe you could give her address to the bobcat for relocation?

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  16. Get a big dog.

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  17. where i'm from, in the south, there has been a big problem with coyotes and bobcats grabbing both livestock and family pets (that woman might has a different take if she saw a bobcat drag her family cat or dog away...). several people i know have gotten donkeys to protect their animals--i can feel that your husband is dying to add to the menagerie :)--with pretty good results.

    otherwise, on the dog suggestions, it would have to be some large wolfhound, bulldog type. and you would need more than one.

    good luck!

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  18. Do you think it is safe for Owen to be out there? or you or Mark or Isabel? If the bobcat gets really riled up by the chickens might he attack a human? Could you take the goats to a sitter for a week or so and keep the chickens locked up and maybe the bobcat will get discouraged and go away?

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  19. Most bobcat sites say to stay clear of the cat and to spray it with a hose..?

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  20. I'm also surprised the county will not relocate it, and yes it is illegal and dangerous for you to try. I'm in NY and we have bobcats and bears and they sometimes have to be removed from populated areas. Call your local DEC or DEP and ask them about this. The only other alternative is electric fencing and you can run it over the top of your yard like a canopy so the animal can not jump down and along the upper part of the fence so he can't get under it.

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  21. People, it's a bobcat, not a mountain lion... it's not going to eat Jennifer's children. They're big as backyard wildlife goes, but not that big. I hope you can find a solution that works for you and your bobcat both. Is there any way you can board your chickens elsewhere for a while until the bobcat loses interest?

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  22. Saw this on BuzzFeed today, thought it might be a good solution?

    http://s3-ec.buzzfed.com/static/enhanced/webdr03/2013/1/16/17/enhanced-buzz-11546-1358374721-0.jpg

    (If that doesn't show up, it's one of those handheld air horn things, held by an old codger, and the caption says "Tired of birds.")

    xox

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  23. Wow. I'm surprised by the last two posts and many of the comments. We are the ones who have encroached on the land so completely that wild animals have nowhere to go. It is undoubtedly very sad to lose our own pets. I lost two beloved cats to coyotes this summer in California. I miss them dearly. I don't blame the coyotes. I don't hope that they will be hit by a Prius. This kind of thinking leads to the elimination of all wild animals. If we are protecting our cats and chickens by killing coyotes or bobcats, can we blame hungry, suffering people for killing elephants in Africa or tigers in India in order to survive? I understand that this is very hard, but I think you need to rethink your initial response.

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  24. I think a Prius hit would be pretty humane, no? ... Thanks for bringing up the people who eat tigers in India; that's an angle I bet most readers hadn't considered.

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  25. Um, I didn't say people eat tigers in India. I said they kill them to survive. In other words, they kill them for money, which they use to buy food and other necessities.

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  26. Get a paintball gun! Freeze the paintballs then shoot the cat. It stings like crazy but won't kill them. We've been doing this to keep away coyotes, raccoon's, deer, dogs, cats, or any other creature who comes near our home. Our cats were having problems with getting beat up on their own property! Our chickens are being stocked by coyotes and raccoon's all the time. It will work. I promise.

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  27. Hello again :) Also with the paintball gun...the animals are terrified of the sound the gun makes. And once they've been hit a few times they tend to not come back. If you think there may be more than one bobcat don't freeze the paint balls. It'll mark the cat so you know if it;'s the same one all the time :)

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  28. Jennifer,

    Try a squirt bottle with vinegar in it. Aim for the face - stings but doesn't harm. It works on the feral cats we've got (and they're a lot nastier than "our" bobcat).

    Lara

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