Pike County Supervisor Tazwell Bowsky woke up a sleepy board meeting Monday when he said bobcats have been “threatening homeowners” — including himself — in the Burglund community of McComb recently.
That’s right, bobcats. The short-tailed wild feline that can reach 40 pounds in weight, four feet in length and two feet in height. With proportionate teeth and claws.
“They come out about 8:30 at night,” said Bowsky, an experienced deer hunter who knows his critters. “They come up in people’s yards and growl at them.”
He got the first report from a neighbor about a month ago. Then Bowsky saw one himself in his back yard.
He said the husky beast came up behind him, growling — a sound Bowsky was able to imitate effectively.
Bowsky turned around to see a two-foot tall cat with brown spotted coat and short tail several yards away approaching him in an apparently menacing manner.
Bowsky said he “threw 15 rocks” at the cat, but since his right arm was paralyzed by a stroke, his aim was off.
Bowsky later contacted the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks and was given a list of phone numbers of nuisance animal trappers, but the nearest one he got in touch with was on the coast.
County civil defense director Richard Coghlan said he should call McComb Animal Control since the neighborhood is in town. He added that bobcats are hard to catch but can be lured.
“A barbecue chicken bone will draw a cat three blocks,” Coghlan averred.
The discussion continued long after the board adjourned, having finished its regular non-feline-related business.
Supervisor Lee Fortenberry named a couple of trappers who work the Progress community.
Board president Robert Accardo said he himself used to trap in Louisiana and even went to trappers’ college. Accardo trapped both for fur and as a nuisance animal trapper.
For a bobcat, which is a sight hunter, either a foot trap or cage can work, he said. Wild canines like coyotes or lupines like foxes, both of which hunt by scent, are far less likely to enter a cage.
“The saying goes that a fox cannot be boxed, but a cat can,” Accardo said.
He said a large cage trap baited with catfood or a dangling white chicken feather is effective on bobcats. However, Mississippi does not allow the use of bait when trapping, only liquid scents.
Accardo also noted that fur trapping season doesn’t start until Nov. 1, though the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks does offer a nuisance animal trapping permit.
“You’re dealing with an urban bobcat. They’re not afraid of people. They’ll eat catfood and stuff like that,” Accardo said.
Catching a bobcat doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, he pointed out. While a trapped coyote can be controlled with a snare on the end of a pole, an enraged bobcat is all claws.
One person recommended Bowsky buy a revolver known as “The Judge” that fires either .45-caliber bullets or .410-gauge shotgun shells, such as buckshot.
Bowsky expressed concerns about firing a gun inside city limits, but someone quipped that the gunshots wouldn’t be distinguishable from other gunfire that reportedly takes place around town.
Bobcats are normally afraid of people and so shy as to be rarely seen, though their cries — which sound like an oversized tomcat in heat — can be heard in rural woods and cutovers now and then.
In the wild, their diet consists mainly of small prey like rabbits, rodents, squirrels and snakes, but they may occasionally go after young deer, pets and small livestock.
According to the “Trapping USA Animal Control Services” website, “Bobcats attacking humans is uncommon, but not unheard of. They can live near populous areas without incident. When a bobcat attempts to approach a human or acts aggressive toward someone, it is most likely ill or feels threatened. Bobcats with rabies are known to attack humans.”
The Enterprise-Journal was unable to reach either McComb Animal Control or a nuisance animal specialist with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks on Monday.