I am not an outdoor child. I never have been. As a little girl, my preference was to go to the public library, not to play outside.
I’m not an animal lover. I like them ok, and I love certain of my friends’ pet dogs and cats, but my general attitude toward nature is that we’re in a war for survival that I will ultimately lose. I don’t like to see any animals mistreated, and I hate the idea of killing a healthy animal for no good reason. I’m an omnivore, so I do consider meals to be a good reason.
Over the past few years, since I’ve moved back to Dallas, I’ve had some disturbing encounters with urban wildlife. Once, I was driving my parents’ SUV to the grocery store, going about 50 mph, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a bird start to cross my path. As time slowed, I could tell that the truck would crash into the bird, and I yelled at the bird to fly faster or change course. It did neither. When I got to the parking lot and steeled myself to scrape the carcass off the car, I was shocked to discover there was no evidence. It was just like the cartoons – impact, then a puff of feathers, then nothing.
Since mid-May, there have been two rabbit-related incidents at the house. We see bunnies all over the neighborhood. They scamper through the alleys. They dig under the fence and nibble on the pears and persimmons that fall from our trees, and they wipe out the perilla and garlic chives that my parents grow in the backyard. They hang out in the front yard looking blankly at us like they can’t figure out why we’re walking through their living room. My sister thinks they’re adorable and cute. I think they’re pests. Despite this, I was NOT HAPPY to find a rabbit head and leg on the front walk when I was leaving one morning for a meeting. My sister called animal control, which came and picked it up. Two weeks later, I almost stepped on another small leg. Animal control came and got that as well.
I’ve been wanting to write about these brushes with death but couldn’t come up with a satisfactory way to do it. Until Friday morning, when I went to the front door to check on the sod in the front yard and saw this.
That’s a BOBCAT. My sister saw it a couple of months prior while she was studying. She reported that she saw a small lion leap the neighbor’s fence. I must have looked as doubtful as I felt, because she called my mother to confirm the story, which Mom did. My sister called animal control about it (her third call to them in two months), and they told her it was probably a bobcat and not to worry because they’re afraid of humans and won’t attack us.
I freaked out a little when I saw the bobcat through the window, wondering why it chose to die right by my front door. Then I saw it breathe and ran for my phone to take pictures, which I texted to my sister and uploaded to Facebook (you can find some of them at the end of this post).
While I was taking photos, the bobcat, which my friends Christian and Dave named “Lola” and “Bobbie,” respectively, woke up. LolaBobbie did not seem at all concerned to see a large human. Maybe it understood that the window offered both of us protection. Or maybe all the literature is wrong. In any event, LolaBobbie stood up, stretched, and ambled to the ledge of the flower bed outside my bedroom.
After it washed its face, it strolled away.
My sister called and recommended that I call the city’s animal control department. Here’s what I learned from my conversation with Lisa, who was super nice, from the department’s website, and from the DFW Wildlife Coalition’s website:
- Wherever there are green spaces in the DFW metroplex, there are bobcats and coyotes. They are not rare, and they are not endangered because of the rampant availability of squirrels, rabbits, and rats.
- Bobcats and coyotes are urban animals not just in the DFW metroplex, but also in Chicago, where there is apparently a pack of coyotes roaming downtown, unfettered.
- My city no longer traps or removes healthy animals both because of a change in philosophy and because it’s pointless. Another bobcat would take over LolaBobbie’s territory, and we’d be back to square one.
- Bobcats will not attack humans, not even human children, because they consider us to be dangerous. (Not sure I believe this – do you see the quality of those cell phone pictures? That’s because of how CLOSE we were to each other.)
- In order to perpetuate the perception that humans are dangerous, you should carry a tennis ball or a baseball with you when you are walking near green spaces so that if you encounter a bobcat, you can throw the ball as the bobcat.
- In order to perpetuate the perception that humans are dangerous, you should not feed the bobcats by leaving pet food out for them. Petting them is also not recommended.
- The best way to keep a bobcat away from a certain area on your property is to install a motion-activated sprinkler because “cats don’t like water.”
- LolaBobbie’s nap by the window indicates that it feels comfortable and secure there, which explains the rabbit parts just beyond our welcome mat (it doesn’t say “welcome”). It’s still safe for the human residents to use the front door, but we “might have issues” if LolaBobbie is a female and decides to have kittens there. Mamas of all mammal species are “protective.”
Then the nice woman on the phone said I should take a lot of pictures because most of the people at animal control haven’t gotten to see a bobcat even though they get “a ton of calls” about them.
In the next five minutes, I learned a few more things:
- Motion-activated sprinklers come in hose-free models. This is great, because then you don’t take up a faucet just to repel a bobcat.
- The hose-free models only come solar-powered. This is not great because the area right outside the front door is completely shaded.
- Many, many brick-and-mortar hardware stores sell garden faucet splitters that will prevent you from having to disconnect and reconnect your hose to the motion-activated sprinkler when you have to water other things.
- Many, many brick-and-mortar hardware stores do not carry motion-activated sprinklers.
- Amazon will ship a motion-activated sprinkler to your home for Saturday delivery.
I texted Carie to ask her if she’d help me set up the sprinkler. It’s not that I’m so feeble that I wouldn’t be able to read the instructions and get it working; it’s that Carie is gifted when it comes to crafts and hardware, and there would be a lot less swearing if she helped me.
You know what took some time? Figuring out where to put a motion-activated sprinkler to repel a bobcat but not the UPS guy. It took us a few minutes to conclude that, based on what I’d seen on Friday, LolaBobbie was probably not limiting itself to the pavement in front of the house and was instead slinking through bushes. It took a few failed tests of the sprinkler to determine that in its first location, the bushes were preventing the sensor from seeing movement. Then we got it in the right spot, in the flower bed outside my bedroom window, and I got drenched four times doing the stoner dance from the end credits of Super Troopers.
I didn’t sleep well last night because I was keeping an ear out for LolaBobbie. My alarm went off at 7:30am, and I hit snooze twice. I didn’t need the second delay because at 7:45am, I heard the sprinkler activate. I did not hear an accompanying yowl. I hope this means that LolaBobbie doesn’t hold the repellent against me. Just in case, I’m looking into purchasing tennis balls from Amazon next.
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