Note: My circumstances are not like those of the folks who live in Orono and had a bobcat problem. I live in the woods and own enough land to try a different approach. The blanket “don’t feed the wildlife” statement does not fit all situations. This is Part One of our experience in living in peace with a killer bobcat.
I knew it was coming. A bobcat always finds its way to our backyard during February of a hard winter.
On Friday, February 20, I went out first thing in the morning to take warm water to the chickens and ducks. It was 5* and the wind blew. Inside the hen house, a duck tried to drag its barely attached leg across the floor. Did he go up to roost, as ducks sometimes do, and get his leg stuck? Odd. I did a head count by flashlight to be sure I could see all of the birds and came up short a chicken and a duck, not counting the wounded duck.
An end wall divides the hen house and old pig shed. The shed was attached to the hen house when it was built. The shed is empty except for a broken bale of hay and snow that blew in. Splattered blood marked a broken board between the two sections where a bobcat tore at the board to get into and out of the hen house. Blood and feathers littered the hay bedding. The cat worked hard to get in.
Steve put down the suffering duck, a drake, and set it aside for me to clean later. I showed it to our English Shepherd so she’d understand and took her around the hen house to look for tracks. She’s familiar with bobcats after last year’s attack. She followed tracks to the door of the pig shed, but I called her back in case the cat was still there. She followed more tracks through the soft, deep snow but she could barely move. I called her back again. She stood on a snowmobile trail and barked while I searched for the missing chicken , found a hammer, nails and board and made the repairs. She was still barking her when I went in for a much needed cup of coffee and to clean the duck. Later, I waded through the snow to get to the door of the pig shed. It looks as though the bobcat spent the night in there and left after the snow stopped falling, probably when I went to tend the poultry. Part of the missing hen duck’s wing stuck out of the snow and hay, buried for the later. I retrieved her and brought her to the house so the bobcat wouldn’t have another meal when it returned.
There wasn’t any sign of the bobcat for the rest of the day.
Bobcats will kill several birds at a time, bury some for later, eat what it wants, and bury the carcasses.
Saturday morning. -14*F. The bobcat was back during the night. It tried so hard to get in that it scratched paint off the door. The ducks were a nervous wreck until they say it was me coming in. Bobcat tracks led out of and into the woods in two places and circled the hen house several times. We were busy enough outside on the tractor and snowmobiles to keep the cat at least out of sight for the day. Just after sunrise the missing chicken was waiting at the door to be let in. She was roughed up and a little bloody but will be just fine.
Sunday morning. 8*F. I tended the poultry as soon as the first rooster crowed. There were new tracks from the woods and around the hen house but no new scratches at the door. Later in the morning, washing dishes, I glanced out the window. “Oh dammit!” There are bobcat tracks on the hen house roof I couldn’t see before sunrise. This is a first.
I started talking to people in the know about what I might do to convince the cat to move on. Hunting season is over. If I catch it in the act of harassing my poultry I can and will shoot it but we don’t want to go that route if it can be avoided. Before the bobcat broke into the hen house it seems to have hunted all of the partridge and snowshoe hares. There haven’t been signs of either for two weeks. The bobcat is hungry and having a hard time hunting in the deep snow. I’m ticked about my birds but feel bad for the cat.
Paul Laney, a Maine Guide from Grand Lake Stream, offered a beaver carcass. We’ve come up with a plan. If I feed the hungry bobcat away from the house it might stop trying to get my poultry. I can also have the bobcat live trapped and released elsewhere but I’m not comfortable with that. It’s already struggling to find food. Moving it to a new location doesn’t feel right because I have other options. I accept Paul’s offer and make arrangements to pick up the carcass Monday morning.
Monday morning, -9F. I talked with Brad Richard, our game warden, to find out how far from the house I needed to place the carcass and if I needed to label it as bait. Since I’m not baiting the cat for hunting purposes a label isn’t necessary. Brad will help me keep food available to the cat by bringing parts of road kill if he has one, and if this keeps it away from the house. And then I made the drive to Grand Lake Stream to pick up a rather bizarre looking beaver carcass. Part Two is now online.