ORONO, Maine — A hungry bobcat that’s eaten at least one neighborhood pet has drawn the attention of state wildlife officials, who are trying to trap and relocate it to a more suitable location.
Maine Game Warden Jim Fahey said he heard reports of a bobcat in the area of North Main Avenue, Crosby Street and Park Street, not far from the back entrance to the University of Maine campus.
“I have spoken to a couple of different folks in Orono about that bobcat,” Fahey said earlier this week. “Basically, the words of caution are, ‘People should practice proper pet containment practices, keeping an eye on small dogs that might go outside of the home, certainly keeping their cats in.’”
Fahey said he has never heard a report of a bobcat actually attacking a human, but said reminding small children to avoid approaching any wild animal would also be prudent.
The weather could be playing a role in bringing this bobcat to a populated area.
“What has happened, and it’s not uncommon during [periods of] bitter cold and deep snow, is bobcats come into settled areas and try to make a living around built-up areas, looking for easy meals,” he said.
Those “easy meals” can come in many forms, he said, including other wild animals like grouse and hares, songbirds that may gather at bird feeders and small household pets like cats.
Jodi Clayton, who lives on Crosby Street in Orono, took several photos of the bobcat when it visited her home repeatedly.
“The bobcat showed up in our yard [Feb. 19] — at least that’s the first time my husband saw it,” Clayton said in an email. “It was dusk and the bobcat was drawn in by our chicken coop. The coop also attracts other critters such as small rodents and birds (because of the feed), which may have also interested the bobcat.”
Clayton said the chickens — “the girls” — are safe becauses the coop is well-constructed. The bobcat retreated when her husband was nearby, but returned to the coop several times.
“The following morning, it was hunkered down in the snow, about eight inches away from the coop, just waiting,” she said.
The photos that she captured were taken the next day, when the bobcat walked by her porch, saw her standing inside the door and meandered off.
“We know that this (or possibly another) bobcat was a block away or so on Friday and killed a neighbor’s cat,” she said. “I do not know what else it may have caught, but another neighbor saw it in their woodshed and on their back step, grooming.”
Kim Giles, whose parents live on North Main Avenue, said she saw the bobcat walking on the sidewalk near Webster Park on Monday.
Fahey said a local animal damage control trapper has set a live trap and hopes to catch the bobcat so that it can be moved to another location away from town.
That is proving to be harder than expected, he said.
“A trap has been set, and the [bobcat] tripped it,” Fahey said. “It was a small trap and a big cat.”
A larger trap is now being used, but Fahey fears that someone in the neighborhood might be feeding the bobcat, making it less apt to seek food in a trap.
“If anybody was feeding it, we’d ask that they not do that, because we are trying to trap and relocate it, and it’s easier to capture if it’s hungry, not if it’s being fed by a neighbor,” Fahey said.
Fahey stressed that the bobcat isn’t doing anything wrong — it’s just hungry. And he said keeping pet cats indoors is always a good idea.
“A [house] cat on the loose is quite a hunter in its own right,” Fahey said. “[It hunts] not only rodents, but also game animals like grouse, and songbirds. Responsible pet ownership has some level of responsibility.”
Fahey said the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries, by policy, does not trap and relocate wild animals, but in some cases, decisions are made to intervene.
Last year, for instance, efforts were made to trap and relocate black bears that were wandering around the town of Orono. Those bears had been fed by homeowners and began associating houses with human food. And a few years back, during another cold spell, he said he captured and relocated a bobcat in downtown Bangor’s Penobscot Plaza after it was found lounging on a windowsill outside of a jewelry store.
“These hungry bobcats, you can’t fault them for hanging around if they’re starving,” Fahey said.
If you are having trouble with a wild animal, game wardens can be reached by calling the nearest dispatch center: 1-800-228-0857 (Gray), 1-800-452-4664 (Augusta), 1-800-432-7381 (Bangor), or 1-800-924-2261 (Houlton).