Bobcats aiming to make a backyard a home - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Bobcats aiming to make a backyard a home

August 20th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Bobcats aiming to make a backyard a home

By Mark Moran
Staff Writer

Chasing wild bobcats may not seem like a good idea but the Arizona Fish and Game Department calls it the best way to keep them from starting families in your backyard and adding to the growing population of bobcats putting down roots in residential areas.

“Anecdotally, it’s more than just a slight uptick,” said Amy Burnett, a spokeswoman in the department’s east Mesa office.

While the state doesn’t have official numbers on bobcat encounters in residential areas, drier conditions have driven more of them in search of readily available water and shelter, she said.

“We have inadvertently created nurseries in our backyards for bobcats,” Burnett said. “The living is so easy, really. The resources are so rich in our urban areas. The bobcats are living the high life and urban bobcats are thriving in our urban interface.”

“What’s happening in these urban areas is that we now have generations of bobcats living in amongst us that are used to getting water and food from our backyards. That in and of itself is not the problem. It’s when we are okay with it and we are not scaring them away when we see them.”

Enter little dogs and cats that may be minding their own business in the backyard and may come between the mother bobcat and her kittens.

“Bobcats are all cute and fine until the mom hisses at a grandchild,” Burnett said. “Instinct is automatically going to take over. No one wants to have their dog eaten.”

According to wildlife specialists, the best way to keep all of that from happening is to turn a high-pressure hose on the bobcats before they get comfortable and think that your backyard is a great place to start a family.

“It’s a delicate balance between understanding that bobcats are here in amongst us but not encouraging them to stay in our backyards,” Burnett said.

“Not feeding them. Not putting water out specifically for them so that they will stay in our backyards. When bobcats are too close, incidents happen. They can become aggressive towards people.”

As the Valley has sprawled in every direction, the number of wildlife encounters has increased. It used to be that state officials would get calls from residents living on the fringes who hadn’t seen bobcats before.

As people started to get used to seeing bobcats on the outskirts, Game and Fish started hearing more from people living in more urban areas.

“Then, as people get used to bobcats living in and among their communities we get fewer calls from those areas and bobcats seem to be living all in our metro areas now, even urban areas, so we don’t see the phone calls on the fringes any more but we are getting them in the interior,” said Burnett.

Phil Cameron, who lives North Scottsdale, has had his share of backyard bobcats, including an injured one that took up residence in his yard for several days and had to be rescued.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had to call someone to help us out with an animal in the yard,” he said.

“We’re careful. Like anything else, if we see it, we stay away from it. Like anything with Mother Nature, we respect it and give it a wide berth.”

“I have seen bobcat calls go up,” said Robert Coonrod, a permitted wildlife specialist who started a business called Arizona Wildlife Relocation Services specifically designed to remove bobcats and other wildlife from residential areas.

Coonrod is the person Phil Cameron called for help when the injured bobcat stuck around in his backyard.

“I try to educate people as to why they are there, and what they can do to alleviate that problem because if I trap the animal, all I am doing is taking that animal out and putting up a vacancy sign for the next one to move in, whereas if we get the animal to move on its own, it relocates,” Coonrod explained.

Coonrod also uses scent deterrent, including scat from predators, to keep bobcats at a distance.

“I use mountain lion poop in certain yards because that’s an apex predator,” he said. Bobcats will steer clear when they think there is another predator.”

He also uses motion detector lights and sprinklers to deter them from becoming full time backyards residents.

Coonrod says the number of bobcat interactions likely will increase as the population expands at the urban fringes and drier weather patterns persist.

Both he and Burnett say they are not an inherent danger in a backyard; the problems arise when people do things that they shouldn’t.

So, wildlife officials say to have the best possible outcome of coexisting with wildlife is to enjoy it, but at arm’s length. And don’t roll out the welcome mat.

“Urban bobcats are definitely here to stay,” Burnett said. “If we set up a KFC next door, they’re not leaving.”