What you should do when encountering bobcats, coyotes

Seasonal spike in wild animal sightings

DALLAS -- Seeing wild predators stroll down a street or sidewalk can be unsettling.

"As soon as the temperatures cooled off a little bit, the calls started coming in," said Bonnie Bradshaw with 911 Wildlife.

For months now, stories of wildlife like bobcats, coyotes, and foxes have fascinated and worried homeowners across North Texas.

Last Thursday, News 8 reported on a bobcat family living under a shed in Plano.

In Richardson, a man named Mike Obert posted video of two others tangling in a front yard.

There is also social media chatter about coyotes in Kessler Park, and even foxes living in flower beds there.

"They think that these animals are being forced into the city because of construction. That's not what's going on,” Bradshaw said. "They're in the city because this is where the food is. They're thriving in the city."

Despite news reports, no one tracks wildlife sightings, so it's uncertain if their numbers are increasing.

There’s the potential for slightly-higher numbers of bobcats and coyotes in urban areas because of access to food and water, said Brett Johnson, urban biologist for Dallas Parks & Recreation.

Johnson said to avoid encounters, don’t feed pets outside and eliminate bird feeders, as well, since they attract squirrels and rats, which are prey for bobcats and coyotes.

It is rare for bobcats and coyotes to attack pets, he added, though there have been instances in the past.

Bradshaw’s firm contracts with the City of Dallas to help citizens solve problems.

Creek beds are animal highways, she explained, and backyards often become homes for the wildlife.

"Usually where we find den sites is underneath a deck or under a shed,” Bradshaw said, “but they'll be in a backyard where there's not any dogs, not any children. Where it's a private sanctuary for them."

Trapping has proven unsuccessful, Bradshaw said, because new animals move in to where the old ones used to roam.

Perhaps more fascinating, she said, is that most people who see bobcats or coyotes actually make mistakes. Sitting in cars, watching from afar, or snapping a picture doesn’t scare off the animal.

Instead, Bradshaw said, be aggressive.

"Act like the dominant animal,” she said.

Shoo it away, clap your hands, or open the car door to scare it off, Bradshaw said, rather than approaching it.

"These animals have a natural fear of humans," she said.

It’s an instinct that’s rarely tested.

Copyright 2016 WFAA


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