With their elusive and mostly nocturnal habits, bobcats tend to stay out of our sight. But one California resident managed to capture a rare encounter on film this week – and the cat in question just happened to be enjoying a squirrel snack right in her backyard. 

Clayton resident Redna Chairil shared footage of the predation with local media. "I never thought a bobcat in our backyard would be famous!" she quipped on Facebook. 

According to reports, the animal is not a stranger in the area, and has been known to hang around the local golf course. Some residents (Chairil included) have expressed concern over the predator's presence. "It's kind of scary – they eat small dogs and cats," she told KPIX 5 News.

As the squirrel lunch clearly shows, bobcats do feed on small mammals, but very few reports exist of attacks on domesticated animals from residential homes. 

Urban carnivore specialist Dr Laurel Serieys explains that in Southern California, for example, diet analyses performed by National Park Service biologists have found no evidence of domestic pets consumed by bobcats. Populations found in the midwest, on the other hand, are occasionally known to hunt lambs – but such events occur on vast ranches. Over in Florida, bobcats sometimes target domestic chickens, not family "fur babies".

"Bobcats most frequently eat rabbits, but also often prey on gophers, ground squirrels and woodrats," says Serieys. That dietary preference makes the stealthy animals an important part of urban ecosystems because they keep rodent numbers in check. 

When they're not munching mammals, these generalists will also hunt birds and reptiles, and scavenge the occasional deer carcass. 

What is interesting about the California sighting is that the bobcat was hunting during the day. "Bobcats are primarily nocturnal animals, especially near urban areas where they try to avoid human encounters," adds Serieys. "In fact, bobcats that live in areas highly fragmented by urbanisation are even more nocturnal than bobcats that live in remote areas."

It's possible that we're looking at a female with a litter nearby, who therefore needs to consume extra calories. Bobcats typically mate in February and March, and the gestation period lasts around two months. After birth, a mother bobcat will stay with her kittens – rarely straying from the den site – for about as long. So the timing here seems to support that hunch. 

"This is the second time we saw [the bobcat] there," says Chairil. "We also saw it five days ago." 

Should you be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a bobcat in your area, the best thing you can do to foster peaceful coexistence is to lock up your waste and keep pet food out of reach. 



Top header image: [KH2203]/Flickr