DANVERS, Mass. — An uptick in bobcat sightings in the Danvers area has surprised many residents.
While those who live in the area might be awestruck at the sight of the big wild cats, experts with Mass Wildlife say they are not surprised at all.
Through his window, former Danvers Selectman David McKenna had a brief, but memorable encounter with a bobcat.
“Saw him come up the road and pause for a moment, [it was] way too big to be a house cat," said McKenna. “He was just poking around there walking around the street.”
McKenna, who, despite having an extensive portfolio of wildlife photography from all his years living and working in the North Shore community, says he’s never once seen a bobcat. In the past two months, he’s seen three.
One resident’s Ring camera caught a bobcat lurking out in front of their home, while McKenna says he’s seen the wild animal over near St. John’s Prep in Danvers.
“A bobcat is not going to attack a 6-foot tall human, it’s going to see you and run for shelter," said McKenna. “You shouldn’t leave small animals or small children unattended.”
Pet owners are advised to play it safe, but experts with MassWildlife say bobcats typically go after smaller mammals.
“A responsible pet owner knows that if they have an unsupervised pet outside, it is subject to attack by all kinds of critters," said Marion Larson, a spokeswoman for Mass Wildlife. “We always recommend that people have their pets on leashes and to be accompanying them outside at all times.”
While bobcats are more commonly seen in western and central Massachusetts, state biologists say the bobcat population is thriving and growing by the year. The main factor contributing the uptick is more food sources in residential areas which have been attracting them out into the open.
“Some [are] thrilled to see it, others saying you got to trap it and move it someplace safe; it seems safe enough here!" said McKenna. “They are around and you never know when you’re going to see one.”
Residents who are on edge about the recent sightings are reassured by wildlife experts who say you should always be aware of your surroundings and keep small pets and children indoors if left unsupervised.
Larson says people should be more worried about the coyotes in the area, who, contrary to bobcats, are much more likely to go after people’s pets - and there are a lot more of them around.
Bobcats, an important natural resource to Massachusetts, are classified as a furbearer species. A management program and regulated hunting and trapping seasons have been established for the species.
As carnivores, bobcats most commonly prey on medium-sized animals such as rabbits and hares but will eat mice, squirrels, skunks, opossums, muskrats, birds, and snakes. Occasionally bobcats will prey on larger animals such as deer but this is generally when other food items are scarce.
While bobcats have been adapting to suburban settings more and more, they rarely interact with humans.
Bobcat tracks may sometimes be confused with the tracks of domestic housecats although adult bobcat prints are larger than a house cat. Bobcat tracks have four toes in the front and back although the front foot actually has five toes.
For those with livestock, experts suggest keeping pasturing animals and chicken coops away from remote areas or near heavily wooded areas. Pen livestock in or near a barn at night and keep chickens within secure pens or coops. Electric fencing has been proven to be an effective deterrent.
Bobcats are the only wild cat in the state; you can learn more about them here.
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