Last year we went from upwards of seventy birds to thirteen. It was horrible. It was wasn’t some exotic bird epidemic, but a predator and a hungry one at that. At first, we suspected a fox, because birds would go missing at all hours, day and night. We tried snares, foot traps, live traps, sprays, it didn’t seem to matter. If it weren’t for the loss of life I would have been impressed with the slyness of this particular “fox.” As it were, I was not. We had a serious predator problem.
So we stopped letting our chicken free graze, they hated us for it and complained loudly, but they were alive to do it. We would let them out on Saturdays when we were outside all day, this worked for exactly one week. The next Saturday when we went in for lunch, we came back to a puff of feathers where once was a bird. So we began taking lunch in shifts, it was ludicrous.
Then one day, on a Tuesday, my son saw it out the kitchen window. I asked him what it looked like, he couldn’t describe it, so he drew us a picture. It looked like a bear with striped legs and a tail.
So I showed him a picture of a fox, thinking that would clear it all up. Nope. He was very adamant that it was not a fox. He said it had round ears and stripes… so raccoon? Nope. We went through a montage of predator pictures. “Is this it?” “No.” “Is this it?” “No.” He was getting frustrated with me and I was just frustrated. Then he saw THE one. A bobcat…
That was not our last sighting, either. One Saturday morning I was in the house and my husband came in to refill his coffee and I hear something slam into the wall and a hen-like noise. I look out the window and there it is, a young bobcat struggling to drag my buff into the woods. I yell for Husband and he barrels out the front door with a shotgun, aims and fires. The distance was too great for a shotgun , but the cub dropped my girl. She was injured but mostly just shook up. I put her by herself for a couple of days while she healed, gave her space and she recovered.
The next weekend, my daughter had a friend over, Husband and I had just walked in the house and she looks out the window and asks why the goat is carrying a duck. What!? So I look out the window, and there is a considerably larger bobcat (same color and size of our Nigerian pygmy goat) carrying off my 12 pound Muscovy drake. Again Husband was lightening fast with the shotgun, yet again the distance was too great, but she dropped the duck. He was not as lucky as the hen. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt (yes, that really was his name) had no visible wounds but died the next day.
We were at our wits end. Clearly we were being stocked, she and her cub knew where we were at all times and they were getting more and more brazen. All of our attempts to trap her had failed. Every day we had a new “fail proof plan” that flopped. We had even called several animal authorities to help us, they were un-accommodating. I guess they had bigger issues than some bobcat obsessed-chicken lady.
The cat obviously knew us well, so what we needed to do was use that against her and get to know her a little better.
Bobcats are very visual, they don’t use smell like coyotes or foxes, they notice the slightest movement, but at their eye level. They don’t have many natural predators and none that come from the sky. With this knowledge and the fact that she was watching us, this is what we did. After working in the yard all day, my husband unceremoniously climbed up on the roof of his shop with a rifle, I finished up and went in the house like I would normally. Not 20 minutes later, shortly after dusk, I hear a shot.
The mother bobcat had been fatally injured, she ran 3 yards and died. I was sad that a beautiful animal lost her life, but I was relieved at the same time. For months, she had been wreaking havoc on our animals. I had dreams about her, my kids were afraid to play outside and we all were stressed, including the animals. But they weren’t safe yet. The cub was still out there.
Three days later we were able to trap the cub. Without his mother’s experienced direction he was easy to trap.