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July 9, 2014

Making tracks in East Texas

Cuney resident sees bobcat; officials say no cause for concern

CHEROKEE COUNTY — A recent bobcat sighting during the day in Cuney by a local resident is no cause for concern, said a Texas Parks & Wildlife official, especially if the animal was near an area that was wooded.

“More than likely, these animals were just passing through, especially if it was on the edge of a neighborhood with a wooded area not very far away,” said wildlife biologist Daniel Price, who oversees Cherokee County. “They are common to see, but I wouldn't say that you'd see them all the time because they move around more during the nighttime than the daytime.”

This past week, Cuney resident Grace Beal reported seeing bobcats walking along a city street in a residential area of town during the day, which she said she thought was unusual, even though the animals were moving along peacefully.

Price said that from time to time, he'll hear of sightings by hunters, “but I don't typically keep up with them. Nobody has reported to me bobcat sightings in town, but in my opinion, it's not a big concern.”

According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, the large cat's territory ranges from central Mexico north into Canada – but one local official reminds people to avoid approaching one if sighted.

“Bobcats are primarily nocturnal animals, but they do move if something upsets them or rousts them,” explained Cherokee County animal control officer Ricky Moore. “Some of the roads throughout the county are pretty grown up, so it wouldn't be unordinary to see them around there.”

Like Price, Moore said he hasn't received many calls about bobcat sightings during the two years he's held the position.

Both men said their first instinct would be to ask if maybe the animal was misidentified.

Manx cats are larger than the average house cat and have similar features to a bobcat, from the tail to the ears, Moore pointed out, while Price suggested that feral cats can sometimes be mistaken for a bobcat.

“Most wildlife species are not going to be outside during the day. The question I'd first ask is whether it really is a bobcat,” Price said. “It could be a feral cat or maybe even a larger house cat.”

Bobcats favor rocky canyons or outcrops when available, according to the TP&W website, “otherwise they choose thickets for protection. These cats are highly adaptable, and in most places have been able to thrive in spite of increasing habitat loss due to human settlement.”

The bobcat, according to the TP&W site, is medium in size, reddish-brown in color and is about the size of a chow dog; it measures about 3.5 feet and can weigh between 12 to 20 pounds. Older, heavier males occasionally  weigh up to about 36 pounds, it added.

They are “highly adaptable felines, and throughout most of their range in Texas, have shown a marked ability to cope with the inroads of human settlement,” according to TP&W.

Their diet consists mainly of small mammals and birds; however, they also may prey on domestic sheep, goats and poultry, although predatory damage isn’t great, only in rare instances, the site states.

As Moore pointed out, TP&W says that bobcats are rather reclusive in nature, active largely at night.

Their breeding season begins usually in February; females have a gestation period of approximately 60 days, and bear an average litter of three cubs, although they can have up to seven, according to the TP&W site.

Because they fall under the umbrella of wildlife, Moore said his department does not handle calls regarding the animal.

“If someone were to call, we would tell them not to approach it because it is a wild animal – if you get it hemmed up, it will attack,” he said. “If it is acting strange, then definitely call in a report. Call the game warden, or the sheriff’s office dispatch, who will get the appropriate people notified.”

Price agreed.

“Leave it alone. I wouldn't do anything (to disturb the animal) – my first reaction would be to take my phone out to take pictures,” he laughed, then added, “As the state becomes more urbanized, (sightings) will happen more frequently, especially in larger towns, where you'll see different types of wildlife species roaming around.”

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