Well, luckily for Evergreen residents, we don’t get any tigers here, but we do get the occasional mountain lion. And it seems a lot more of us have been seeing bobcats this winter, right in our neighborhood.
But bobcats are a good thing, so no-one panic! They eat rodents and are generally very shy and elusive, so not typically a threat to humans. We’re all probably seeing the same one or two bobcats, as well.
According to Jen Constantin, the Outreach and Education Director at the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, the drought we have been experiencing throughout California has been having an impact on the normal patterns of many kinds of wildlife. When creeks dry up, not only do bobcats need to look for other water sources, but all the little critters the bobcats hunt leave that dry creek bed, too. So, if the rodents are attracted to your bird-seed (that has fallen out of its feeder onto the ground) in your yard, the bobcats may come to your home to find the rodents! It is important to take precautions to not attract the rodents that bobcats prey on.
Another reason for the increased sightings? It’s breeding season, which will last a few months. Pregnant females will then have 1-6 babies in the spring, but you likely won’t see them. Bobcats are usually nocturnal, and will keep their young well hidden.
Bobcats look different than mountain lions. They have stubby or “bobbed” black-tipped tails and usually have tufted “lynx-like” ears. They are also small, usually no more than 2 feet in height and 13-40 pounds. Their coats are reddish brown, typically with spots and stripes of black. They camouflage wonderfully on our Evergreen hillsides.
Should dog walkers be worried if they see one on their walks? “No,” says Constantin, “It is not a bobcat’s natural behavior to stalk humans. It should not be a concern”. She does caution that a very small pet (small dog, rabbits) left unattended could be at risk, although a barking dog would likely scare off a bobcat. They are very adverse to noise, so any kind of startling noise will scare them away.
Humans are much more likely to hurt a bobcat, even if unintentionally, than have a bobcat hurt them in any way. Hillside development destroys their habitat, and cars and pesticides can be lethal for bobcats and other wildlife. In particular, if you put poison out for rodents, and a bobcat or other wild animal or bird eats that rodent, the secondary poisoning can harm or even kill the wild animal.
Are there really dozens of bobcats in our neighborhood? Likely not, says Constantin. They have large territories and usually maintain multiple dens, so it is probably really only one or two bobcats being seen throughout the area.
If you see a bobcat, feel fortunate to enjoy the experience, they are lovely creatures. If you see a hurt bobcat (hit by a car, limping, etc.), do not approach it. Contact the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley at 408-929-9453. You can also check out their website at www.wcsv.org.