Wild Cat Sightings in Town Prompt Urban Bobcat Study
SAN ANGELO, TX — They live among us. They navigate our streets and highways. They eat our pet’s food, drink water from our pools, raise and nurture families around us yet few people have ever seen them. Sound like an alien type thing? It’s not.
Our stealthy cohabitants of many neighborhoods from San Angelo to Dallas are urban bobcats. Coyotes, fox, deer and raccoons also inhabit city areas, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has set out to better understand how bobcats are seemingly not only surviving but thriving in metro locations.
An official study in now underway in the Dallas –Fort Worth area to determine how bobcats live among cars, people and other crowded situations.
Derek Broman has been in Texas just a short time. He has studied bobcats in Iowa, Connecticut and obtained his masters degree in wildlife biology in New Hampshire. He’s now a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department employee and leads a program aimed at better understanding bobcats in urban settings.
The study has a focus of 49,000 acres of urban sprawl in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. According to 2010 census data, the area of concentration around Arlington, Hurst and Fort Worth has 229,674 people and 103,475 housing units. The number of bobcats living there and how they exist in such a people-packed area is the study’s mission statement.
Although San Angelo is not part of the official study, Captain Game Warden Jason Huebner of the TPWD in San Angelo also has been spying on bobcats that live near and inside the city limits.
“We’re constantly receiving phone calls from people who think they have seen a mountain lion. We haven’t verified any mountain lion sightings. Investigations always points to bobcats,” stated Huebner.
Huebner is recently investigated two supposedly deer kills where bobcats were seen feeding on carcasses of the deceased animals.
One of the kills, a mature buck, was discovered in the Middle Concho Park area of Lake Nasworthy. “A resident living in the area called and reported he had found a dead buck and suspected a mountain lion had make the kill because of the way the animal had been covered with brush and lose ground cover,” said Huebner.
Cats, from bobcats, mountain lions and larger African cats all attempt to hide their kills from scavengers by covering the dead animal with available ground cover. Domestic cats resort to the same procedure.
Upon investigation by Huebner, it was concluded that the only evidence of predators around the deer was that of bobcats. Scat around the carcass was that of bobcats and the only tracks in the area where bobcat paw prints.
Huebner set a trail camera nearby, reasoning that animals would return to feast on the hidden buck. They did, only it was three young bobcats.
Conclusions of the how the deer died are not clear, says the TPWD Game Warden, but he tends to believe the deer was taken down by a bobcat or bobcats. “I don’t believe the three young cubs could have killed a mature buck but I’m not certain,” he suggested. He feels sure the deer didn’t die of natural causes. It was not shot and did not have signs of a car accident.
He is more certain about another deer’s death near a wooded section of a local golf course.
The animal, an immature doe, was found and it too had been covered with ground cover. Huebner personally camouflaged himself and staked out the site.
In the early morning hours, a lone mature bobcat returned to consume the leftovers.
Drought conditions around San Angelo have often forced large herds of deer into any locations that offer water and something green to forage. Golf courses are often their golden ticket. Many residents living around the links also feed the hungry animals corn and other livestock selections.
It’s a reasonable thought to assume that bobcats are turning to deer as a concentrated food source. Huebner says he’s not sure, but it appears so.
The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex was selected for the official bobcat study because of numerous reported sightings. Broman says that bobcats reside in all states of the nation, but Texas has the largest population, estimated by the TPWD to be near 1.3 million.