By Camilla Price
Meet the bobcat and coyote, two of the most adaptable and elusive animals in Texas.
These predators thrive in natural areas and urban green spaces, but misunderstandings by the community can put them at risk. Learn more about bobcats and coyotes, what to do when you encounter them, and why it’s important for us to coexist with wildlife.
Bobcats are medium-sized wildcats weighing 15-30 pounds. In Texas, we have two subspecies: the desert bobcat in the west and northwest, and the Texas bobcat, which ranges across the rest of the state. These cats prefer natural areas and are often found near creeks and riverbeds. Urban bobcats are opportunistic hunters and commonly eat small mammals like rats, rabbits, and squirrels.
Have you heard coyotes in your area? The Latin name for the coyote means “singing dog” – these animals have 11 different vocalizations, so one breeding pair can sound like a large group of coyotes!
These canids weigh 25-45 pounds and are often found near creeks, parks, and floodplains. Coyotes are omnivorous and will eat fruits, nuts, small mammals, and food scraps. Resident coyotes are territorial, with a breeding pair maintaining a home range up to several square miles.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER A BOBCAT OR COYOTE
Just spotting a bobcat or coyote is not cause for alarm. Coyotes and bobcats can both be active at all times of the day and night, and prefer to be left alone. Sightings may be more common during peak breeding season from December-February and when juveniles disperse from their family groups in the fall (September-November).
Did you know? According to the Human Society, more people are killed by errant golf balls or flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes.
If you see a wild animal in a populated area, like a neighborhood, use deterrent techniques to prevent the animal from frequenting areas near people.
Using deterrents means using noisemakers, clapping and waving your arms, and shouting, and, if those don’t work, throwing small objects until the animal leaves the area.
Do not chase or corner the animal, and don’t stop to take pictures or encourage the animal to come closer.
These techniques keep wildlife wary of people, which protects them as well as us.
GUIDELINES FOR COEXISTING WITH WILDLIFE
Bobcats and coyotes are here to stay. They are adaptable and have established populations across Texas. Treating them with respect keeps people, pets, and local wildlife safe.
From Texas Parks and Wildlife and other local wildlife authorities, here are some tips for coexisting with our wild neighbors:
REMOVE FOOD SOURCES
Never intentionally feed wild carnivores.
Feed pets indoors and do not feed feral cats.
Secure trash with a locking lid or bungee cord and take it out the morning of pickup.
Keep your pets indoors.
When outdoors, supervise your pet and keep dogs on-leash and within six feet.
Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up to date.
DISCOURAGE CARNIVORE VISITORS
Close off crawl spaces in attics and below decks.
Add a ribbed coyote roller to your fence to prevent coyotes and bobcats from climbing fences to enter your yard.
Use deterrents like motion-activated sprinklers or radio noise.
WHY CARNIVORES MATTER
Coyotes and bobcats are part of nature, and their ability to thrive and raise families in landscapes dominated by people reminds us of the wonderful resilience of wild animals. These carnivores also play an important role in the ecosystem by keeping prey populations in check and eating invasive rodents that spread disease and pose pest control problems for Texas homeowners and businesses.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: ADVOCATE FOR CARNIVORES IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD
Avoid leaving out poisonous chemicals that harm wildlife! Putting out rat poison can kill bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and even neighborhood cats which eat tainted rats.
Encourage community officials to adopt leash laws for dogs and preserve wildlife habitat in your area.
Ask your city’s animal services department to adopt the Humane Society’s municipal coyote management plan (check it out in our resources below).
Educate your neighbors! By encouraging them to coexist with wildlife and sharing deterrent practices, we can make room in our communities for people and wildlife.
Join TCA! As a nonprofit, all our proceeds go to protecting and restoring wildlife habitat, including prairies, forests, rivers, and the Gulf Coast.
Q: Am I at risk from coyotes and bobcats?
A: Attacks by coyotes are extremely rare. In the state of Texas, only 12 coyote attacks on people have ever been documented, and there are no documented cases of bobcats attacking people in Texas.
In the history of the United States, only two human fatalities have ever been caused by coyotes.
You can reduce your personal risk by supervising children and keeping pets on-leash and within six feet when outdoors.
Q: How can my community prevent human-wildlife conflicts from occurring?
A: The most effective method is using the deterrent practices described above to discourage coyotes and bobcats from coming too close to people.
According to the Humane Society, animal attacks are often preventable by modifying human behavior and educating people about how to avoid having animals become too used to people.
In as many as 85% of documented cases where a coyote or bobcat acted aggressively toward a human, the animal was being fed by people. The best practice for any community is to never intentionally feed carnivores.
Q: Can bobcats and coyotes be removed from my area?
A: Bobcats and coyotes are a valuable part of our urban ecosystem, and trapping for lethal removal or relocation is expensive, ineffective, and often inhumane. In fact, relocating coyotes, bobcats, and many other wild animals is illegal in the state of Texas.
Q: When should I be concerned?
A: Most animal services departments will not respond to a call about urban wildlife unless an animal is sick, injured, or unusually aggressive.
High-risk behaviors can include a carnivore injuring or killing a pet with a person nearby; acting aggressively toward a person by showing teeth, lunging, or growling; limping; or staggering with paralyzed back legs.
If you observe high-risk behavior or signs of illness, report the incident to your local animal services department. In the case of an attack, call 911 immediately.
And remember: eliminating attractants, using deterrent techniques, and educating your neighbors will prevent potentially harmful behaviors from escalating!
Questions or concerns?
Contact Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Phone: (800) 792-1112