BOBCATS (Lynx rufus)

Dallas Virchow Fig. 1. Bobcat, Lynx rufus
Extension Assistant-Wildlife Damage Control
School of Natural Resources
Universityof Nebraska-Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0974

Denny Hogeland
District Director
Nebraska Fur Harvesters
Bridgeport, Nebraska 69336

Additional Bobcat Control Control Information

Legal Status

Among midwestern states, the bobcat is protected in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and in most counties of Kentucky. It is managed as a furbearer or game animal in the plains states. Western states generally exempt depredating bobcats from protected status. They can usually be killed by landowners or their agent. In the more eastern states and states where bobcats are totally protected, permits are required from the state wildlife agency to destroy bobcats. Consult with your state wildlife agency regarding local regulations and restrictions. 

Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Exclusion

Use woven-wire enclosures to discourage bobcats from entering poultry and small animal pens at night. Bobcats can climb, so wooden fence posts or structures that give the bobcat footing may not be effective. Bobcats also have the ability to jump fences 6 feet (1.8 m) or more in height. Use woven wire overhead if necessary. Fences are seldom totally effective except in very small enclosures.

Cultural Methods

Bobcats prefer areas with sufficient brush, timber, rocks, and other cover, and normally do not move far from these areas. Keep brush cut or sprayed around ranches and farmsteads to eliminate routes of connecting vegetation from bobcat habitat to potential predation sites.

Frightening

Use night lighting with white flashing lights, or bright continuous lighting, to repel bobcats. You can also use blaring music, barking dogs, or changes in familiar structures to temporarily discourage bobcats.

Repellents, Fumigants, and Toxicants

No chemical repellents, fumigants, or toxicants are currently registered for bobcats. Commercial house cat repellents might be effective in some very unusual circumstances. A hindrance to development of toxicants is the bobcat’s preference to feed on fresh kills.

Trapping

Bobcats are more easily trapped than are coyotes or foxes, but the bobcat's reclusiveness makes set locations difficult to find. When hunting, bobcats use their sense of smell less than coyotes do, so lures and baits are usually not effective. The bobcat's acute vision, hearing, and inquisitiveness however, can be capitalized upon. Even with the best sets, bobcats cannot be lured from their course of travel more than a few yards (m). The bobcat's use of dense cover for capturing rodents and rabbits can be used in capture techniques to guide the animal or even its footsteps. In the past, the demand for bobcat pelts was moderately high due to fur values. This had encouraged late fall and winter harvest periods. Also, the bobcat's high fur quality attracts harvest for recreation or utility. If bobcat depredations are common over time, consider inviting a fur trapper to take bobcats during prime fur periods. Fewer bobcats may result in less competition for native foods and less depredation. Fur trappers may undertake the capture and relocation of bobcats during spring and summer months from areas where depredations are occurring in return for fur trapping rights during fall and winter months. Many of the same sets used for foxes and coyotes will also catch bobcats. Few sets that target bobcats will catch other predators. Bobcats can be led by guide sticks or brush to dirt hole or flat sets where proper lures are used.

Leghold Traps. Steel leghold traps, Nos. 2, 3, and 4 are commonly used to capture bobcats. Trap size selection depends on the area and weather conditions. For coarse-textured sandy soils, use a No. 2 coilspring trap. Use a No. 3 trap for wet or fine-textured clay soils. Use No. 4 traps for frozen soils or in deep snow sets. A bobcat is easy to hold, but sometimes more power and jaw spread is required than a No. 2 coilspring provides. The bobcat's foot may be too large for proper foot placement and a good catch. Guide sticks and stones can be used (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. Blind or trail set for Bobcat.

Bobcats prefer fresh baits such as rabbit, muskrat, or poultry. Scattered bits of fur and feathers work well. Bobcats can be drawn to traps by "flags" hung from trees or rocks located near trap sets (Fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Flags for bobcat set.

Suspend flags about 4 feet (1.3 m) above the ground with fine wire or string. A combination of stiff wire with string attached to its end prevents entangling in tree branches. Where animal parts are illegal, aluminum foil or jar lids or imitation fur can be used. Location is the key to trapping bobcats. If the location is not correct, no flags or baits will work.

A flag set uses a piece of fur or a couple of feathers suspended about 4 feet (120 cm) above ground with fine wire or string. Build a small mound of soil under the flag 1 foot (30 cm) high and 2 feet (60 cm) in diameter. Bobcats step onto these mounds to reach the flag. Bury steel leghold traps in the mound. Steel foothold traps can also be used in other sets. See instructions in the Mountain Lions chapter.

 Trash or mound sets take advantage of bobcats covering their scat and leftover food (Fig. 5). This set is very common. Pull up a pile of trash or litter over a large bait, to mimic bobcat behavior. A smaller mound can be made with urine poured over the trash. These sets are useful where exposed baits are illegal. Both sets should be used where backing such as rocks or trees are available. Place a steel leghold trap and guide sticks in front of trash pile sets.

Fig. 5. Scat mound set for bobcat.

Body-gripping Traps. Bodygripping traps are very effective killer traps for eliminating bobcats. These kill traps are spring-loaded. When the trigger is released, the trap closes on the animal in a scissors-like action. An example of this type of trap is the Victor® No. 330 Conibear®. This trap, and others like it, can be very dangerous to use, breaking arms, or killing large dogs if improperly set. Check local regulations to determine if they are legal to use in your area. For bobcats, set these traps in trails at the base of a cliff or in brush. Use bait or lures beyond the trap to entice the bobcat to walk through it. Strategic bait placement also keeps bobcats preoccupied.

These sets can be made in dense cover in trails, at the entrances to dens, or at gaps in fences or brush where bobcats travel. These traps can also be set in entrances to cubbies constructed to trap bobcats. Place an attractive bait at the rear of the cubby and place the kill trap so that the bobcat must go through it to reach the bait. See Mountain Lions for other sets made with body-gripping traps.

Specific instructions on trapping bobcats are found in Boddicker (1980). Extensive bobcat trapping methods can also be found in Weiland (1976), Young (1941), Johnson (1979), and Musgrave and Blair (1979). Check all local and state laws for using traps, snares, baits, or lures.

Wire Cage Traps. Very large cage traps, made of wire mesh or metal, when properly set, are effective. Commercial traps from 15 x 15 x 40 inches (38 x 38 x 100 cm) up to 24 x 24 x 48 inches (60 x 60 x 120 cm) are available. See the Supplies and Materials chapter. Use brush or grass on the top and sides of the cage to give the appearance of a natural "cubby" or recess in a rock outcrop or brush. Traps should be set in the vicinity of depredations, travelways to and from bobcat cover, hunting sites. Cover the cage bottom with soil. Bait the cage with poultry, rabbit, or muskrat carcasses, or live animals. Check local and state laws for restrictions.

Snares. Snares are very effective for bobcats but require expertise and caution. When properly set, a snare can be used to either kill or restrain a bobcat. Snares can be placed in the same locations and situations as body-gripping traps. They are particularly effective in cubby sets, bobcat runways, and den entrances (Fig. 6). Properly placed, snares offer the advantages of bodygripping traps without the danger to pets and non-target wildlife.

Fig. 6. Cubby set with snare.

Set snares in trails where bobcats are known to travel (Fig. 7). Baits and lures are usually not used with snares and may hinder success. Use camouflage only to break up some of the outline of the snare, preferably with native material, like grasses. Do not tie camouflage material to the loop of the snare. Spring-loaded snares work best. Put "memory" into the snare by placing tension on the inside of the lock against the cable with your finger as you close the snare once or twice. This prevents a bobcat from walking through a snare. Cables respond to the memory by closing easily.

Fig. 7. Trail set with snare.

Kill snares actually kill the captured bobcat and are most often used during the furbearer season or for animals for which relocation has failed (Fig. 8). They are best made from fine steel cable, 1/16 inch (0.15 cm) or 5/64 inch (0.2 cm) in diameter. Positive locks work well. Set kill snares with the bottom of the loop about 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) off the ground with a loop 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) in diameter. This loop must be set perpendicular to the trail.

Fig. 8. Kill snare with washer lock.

Live snare sets capture and hold bobcats alive. They differ from kill snare sets by their cable size, locks, and entanglement precautions. Larger cables and relaxed locks on live snare sets can reduce injury if set properly. Relaxed locks tighten onto animals but relax as the animal stops struggling. This allows the animal to breath normally and regain composure.

Kill snares may be tied off to a 3-inch (7.5-cm) diameter tree or larger . To aid quick kills, hammer 2-foot (60-cm) stakes into the ground, leaving 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) aboveground. Killsnare locks (Gregerson, Camlock, Thompson, Keflock) are in several of the supply catalogs listed in Supplies and Materials.

The live snare set (Fig. 9 at left) requires more expertise than the kill snare set. Also, capture and transport of bobcats is very dangerous. Use 3/32-inch (0.25-cm) steel cable 6 to 8 feet (1.9 to 2.5 m) long. Use snares with high quality swivels located midway or closer to the loop. Stake live snares to the ground with steel stakes, hammered to just below ground level. Use loop sizes as in the kill snare set. Clear brush and other entanglements from the area.

Fig. 9. Live snare with washer lock.

Use extreme caution when releasing a snared animal. Catch poles with adjustable steel nooses, thick leather gloves or gauntlets, and other protective clothing are necessary. Immobilizing drugs such as ketamine hydrochloride should be accessible. Two people should handle captures; one at the neck and the other at the back feet to remove the snare. Cut a 1/2- x 4-inch (1.2- x 10-cm) slot from the bottom up toward the center of a 3- x 3-foot (1- x 1-m), 5/8-inch (1.6-cm) or larger piece of plywood. A handle should be attached at the upper end. Place the plywood between you and the snared animal and let the cable run through the slot as you approach, keeping the cable tight. Check live snare sets frequently to avoid unnecessary stress and loss of captured bobcats to predators, such as eagles, coyotes, and mountain lions. See Supplies and Materials for suppliers of bobcat snares. Always ask for expert advice before attempting live captures. Extensive instructions on snaring can be found in Grawe (1981) and Krause (1981).

Shooting. Bobcats respond to predator calls at night and can be shot. Use a red, blue, or amber lens with an 80,000- to 200,000-candlepower (lumen) spotlight to locate bobcats. Sources of predator calls are found in Supplies and Materials. Dogs trained to track bobcats can be useful in removing problem animals. Bobcats can be shot after being treed. Bobcats may develop a time pattern in their depredations on livestock or poultry. You can lie in wait and ambush the bobcat as it comes in for the kill. Rifles of .22 centerfire or larger, or shotguns with 1 1/4 ounces (35 g) or more of No. 2 or larger shot are recommended, since bobcats are rather large and require considerable killing power.

Editors

Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage 1994 Logo

PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE 1994

Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska -Lincoln

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control

Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee

 

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