Conservation officers in Merritt are reminding residents to keep their small pets inside after a slew of bobcat sightings in the Nicola Valley, including one run-in that was fatal for a family’s house cat. Merritt’s COs have received a number of calls regarding bobcats within city limits, along with a number of social media posts in local groups reporting sightings of a bobcat.
Throughout the month of December, and in the colder months in general, Merritt sees an increase in the presence of bobcats within city limits. The animals are often hungry, looking for easy and small prey. While their usual food source is small game such as grouse or rabbits, hungry bobcats are known to go after small pets occasionally. One recent incident saw an ill bobcat attack and kill a Merritt resident’s cat.
“We have had a few calls, and one call was confirmed that a bobcat did get after a family cat, and the cat was killed,” said Tyler Kerr, conservation officer in Merritt.
“That particular bobcat was dispatched as it was found to be in very poor health. It was sick with something, it was very thin and almost seemed to be starving, which is why it went after the cat. Cats typically aren’t a bobcat’s first prey animal, but they’re seen as easy targets.”
Kerr said the Nicola Valley is prime real estate for bobcats, and while they usually stick to their stomping grounds in more wooded and remote areas, they will occasionally come into town. The key to preventing more kitty conflicts? Keep your furry friends inside, and eliminate any attractants that may draw the wild animals closer in.
“The biggest piece of information I can give to people is to keep their cats inside,” added Kerr.
“We’ve got too many cats running around outside, and there’s quite a few feral cats in town, so they are going to come into conflict with these bobcats if they’re just roaming the street every day. We live on the edge of bobcat territory, it’s perfect bobcat territory all around us.”
Bobcats are generally skittish and avoid confrontation, but this behaviour can change based on possible illnesses, lack of food, and other factors. A fully grown male bobcat usually ranges from 20 to 30 pounds, and measures roughly 35 inches in length. The small-to-medium sized carnivores rarely engage humans in conflict, but Kerr suggested keeping bear spray on hand if bobcats frequent the area.
Those wishing to report a conflict with wildlife that threatens public safety can call the BC Conservation Officer Service at 1-877-952-7277.