Bobcats and Mountain Lions
Bobcats and Safety: Although bobcats typically avoid people, they can also successfully utilize and thrive in/around open spaces close to some residential areas, including neighborhoods like yours along the “urban-wildland interface” (the transition zone between potential wildlife habitat and developed areas). While it’s understandable that seeing a bobcat might make you nervous, they are by nature wary of people and pose little-to-no threat to public safety or human health. To put things in perspective, fewer than a handful of verified attacks by bobcats on humans have EVER been recorded in California– and these bobcats were usually suffering from illness. However, unattended small pets and barnyard animals (like chickens) attract not only bobcats, but other wildlife that can either injure or spread disease to domestic animals. Cutting back any low-lying vegetation that may be creating hiding spaces for wildlife near residences (at least 2-3 feet off the ground) can help to discourage bobcats from lingering in an area, as well as removing or preventing access to “attractants” (food, water, and shelter).
Protecting Pets: To avoid potential conflicts with dogs and cats, it is very important to continue bringing pets indoors at night, keep pets on-leash/escorted when outside, and to keep pet food/water indoors. This is not only to discourage bobcats from visiting, but also other animals like coyotes, raccoons, or skunks that may be more likely to become a long-term nuisance. In addition, making efforts to discourage potential bobcat prey animals (such as rabbits, squirrels, and rats) from visiting your property is highly encouraged, as these animals and/or potential water sources (ponds, swimming pools, bird baths) may also be attracting bobcats to your neighborhood. The unfortunate reality is that unsupervised, outdoor pets are more likely to be chased, attacked, and/or killed by wildlife. The better that we, as pet owners, can safeguard our yards and pets in areas with bobcat activity, the better off we will be at preventing conflicts!
Role in the Ecosystem: Bobcats also play an important role by helping to maintain healthy ecosystems and species diversity. Bobcats regulate rabbit and rodent populations, which may result in a reduced need/use of rodenticides (which can harm non-target species, including pets). Because certain rodents can spread diseases like plague and hantavirus, bobcats also help to keep disease outbreaks in check. We strive to encourage responsible cohabitation with bobcats so that communities can feel safe and still experience the benefits this native species offers to our local landscapes.
Mountain Lion Activity: It’s completely understandable that mountain lion activity in your area would make you nervous. While mountain lions typically avoid people, it turns out that they can also use vegetated spaces close to some residential areas to move about the landscape - including neighborhoods like yours along the “urban-wildland interface” (the transition zone between potential wildlife habitat and developed areas). We’ve also come to realize that mountain lions are not as much of a safety concern as we once thought they were. As demonstrated in a study by researchers at UC Santa Cruz, they are typically more afraid of us than we are of them! Mountain lion attacks on people are extremely rare, but we of course recommend being aware of possible activity when living near/recreating in mountain lion habitat. I would encourage you to view our “Preventing Conflicts with Mountain Lions in California” brochure, and our Human-Wildlife Conflicts Toolkit to learn more about mountain lions.
Protecting Communities: At this point in time, we believe the best way to manage the situation is to keep neighbors informed about the presence of a mountain lion, as well as reducing and/or eliminating access to possible lion “attractants” (food, water, and shelter). Cut back any low-lying vegetation that may be creating hiding spaces for lions near residences (at least 2-3 feet off the ground). Encourage children to play outdoors in groups and during the daytime only, and have adults supervise children when playing outdoors. Recreate in groups and avoiding venturing into mountain lion habitat during low-light conditions. Use of non-lethal deterrents - such as radios, air horns, motion-detecting strobe lights, alarm systems, and/or water sprinklers/jet streams - may also help to discourage wildlife. Lastly, making efforts to discourage potential prey animals (primarily mule deer, but also raccoons, coyotes, and even outdoor cats) from visiting the community is highly encouraged. These animals, as well as water sources (ponds, swimming pools, and bird baths) may also be attracting mountain lions to a given area. Being prepared and aware is the best prevention for human-lion conflict! Visit the Mountain Lion Foundation’s website to learn more about staying safe in areas with mountain lion activity.
Protecting Pets and Barnyard Animals: Domestic animals should be kept safely indoors or within completely enclosed shelter structures when they cannot be closely monitored or be on-leash outdoors - particularly at dawn, dusk, and nighttime (when mountain lions actively hunt). All shelter structure materials should be securely fastened to each other, and that no gaps bigger than 4 inches are present between the roof, walls, and any other paneling that a lion could squeeze through. The roof material would also need to be strong enough to support the weight of a lion (max weight of a male lion is about 200 lbs). Mountain lions will typically target sheep, goats, calves, and other unsecured small “barnyard” animals as easy prey sources. Full-sized adult horses are not typically targeted by mountain lions as prey animals, though young horses may be and should be safely secured at night. Specially trained livestock guardian dogs are also recommended for property owners that have large pastures of free-roaming livestock that cannot be kept within fully enclosed shelter structure at night. Keep in mind, mountain lions can jump over fences 10 feet or more in height. See information provided by the Mountain Lion Foundation to learn more about safeguarding our domestic animals.