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April 11, 2013

OUR VIEW: Bobcats are no reason to worry

If you read our report Thursday on bobcat sightings in Cass County with trepidation, there’s little need to worry.

Just ask Tom Hewitt, a biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. He has an age-old take on fear of bobcats: “They’re just as frightened of you as you are of them.”

The small predators are 2 to 4 feet long, standing about 2 feet high and weigh 15 to 30 pounds. Large tufts of fur on their cheeks are a dead give-away of their breed.

There are ways to know if there’s a bobcat residing on or near your property. Evidence may include tracks in mud, droppings, feeding areas, and claw marks on tree trunks.

You likely will never see one as they are known to avoid people. If you should happen to run into the reclusive creature, Hewitt says the best thing to do is to yell and scare it away. Given their fear level, you likely won’t have to even yell, he says. They’ll likely run at the sight of you.

“In most cases,” Hewitt said, “they’re going to be running one way as you run the other way. The only time a wild animal is going to be defensive is when it has young ones. If you corner them and threaten them, then naturally they’re going to defend themselves.”

Keep that in mind should you cross one’s path. Another thing to remember, though the animals are no longer on the state endangered list, they are still protected. That means hunting them is prohibited.

If you’re still worried, there are ways to protect yourself and your pets.

• Don’t feed wildlife. This includes deer, feral cats, and other small animals. Remember predators follow prey.

• Prevent the buildup of feeder foods under bird feeders. Bobcats are attracted to the many birds and rodents that come to feeders.

• Feed dogs and cats indoors and clean up after them. If you must feed outside, do so in the morning or midday, and pick up food and water bowls, as well as leftovers and spilled food as soon as pets have finished eating. Water, pet food and droppings attract small mammals that, in turn, attract bobcats.

• Keep dogs and cats indoors, especially from dusk to dawn.

• Enclose poultry (chickens, ducks, and turkeys) in a secure outdoor pen and house. Bobcats will eat poultry if they can get to them.

But, most important, remember what Dads always say, they’re just afraid of you as you are of them.

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