Western West U residents may be fretting about the coyotes hanging around the Bellaire-side train tracks, but Northeast Houston resident Tim Wooddell has an encounter with a larger animal to report: He says a “very large bobcat” paid a visit to his Sunrise Pines back yard one night last week. Not the kind of Bobcat with wheels, the kind with very large paws. At least that’s what the Texas Parks & Wildlife biologist thinks it was; Wooddell still suspects the cat he spotted might actually have been a mountain lion. Wooddell tells Swamplot his visitor “was about twice the size of my Labrador retriever, it was about 7′ long with a long tail, dark brownish gray in color and probably weighed about 175 lbs.” The bobcat may have been more shaken by the encounter than Wooddell; after spotting the homeowner and his dogs, it jumped over the back fence, loosening a few pickets on the way.
For all you suburban wildlife fans out there, here’s the rather extensive (but entertaining) account of the encounter Wooddell sent to Swamplot:
I live in NE Houston just off of Beltway 8 and on Monday evening 9/12/2011, I took my dogs outside just as it was getting dark and as soon as the dogs stepped off the patio they immediately starting barking and running to the right rear corner of my yard, to my surprise there was a very large cat species ( bobcat/mountain lion ) in my back yard.
The very large bobcat/mountain lion was about twice the size of my Labrador retriever, it was about 7′ long with a long tail, dark brownish gray in color and probably weighed about 175 lbs. and the tracks were about 2 1/2″ to 3″ wide.
When I spotted this very large bobcat/mountain lion, it started running back toward the right rear corner of my back yard, it leaped upon the green utility pod and jumped up on the two right rear 6′ tall privacy fence panels that form a V- shape due to the angle of the property line.
This very large bobcat/mountain lion straddled the two sections of the privacy fence with his rear legs on the top right fence panel 2×4 and his front leg or legs on the left fence panel 2×4 where he paused for about 2-3 seconds before leaping over the fence, the very large bobcat knocked a few of the fence pickets loose at the top as it leaped over the fence.
Also, earlier Monday afternoon my roommate noticed my dogs gathering around the area where I had spotted the bobcat later that evening, he went to observe the area and noticed that a bird had been mutilated with the carcass, blood and feathers strewn about the ground.
He tossed what was left of the mutilated bird over the rear fence into the woods and assumed that an owl had possibly killed the bird.
After encountering this very large bobcat/mountain lion later that evening, I started thinking about the possibility of the bird carcass just beyond the rear fence and the remaining blood and feathers in the yard is what may have attracted this very large bobcat/mountain lion into the yard.
I have lived here four years and during this time I have heard a lot of unusual noises during the day & night coming from the heavily wooded area behind my house. A few years ago I would occasionally see wild boars walking behind the fence during the day through the space between the fence pickets, I have also seen deer in the area and I have heard what sounded like women screaming in the woods during the night, presumably bobcat/mountain lion screams.
This past summer we had to repair several leaning rear fence posts and damaged fence pickets, we cleared all of the under brush and cut down some of the brush and trees that were growing over our rear fence. While we were back there we heard growls coming from the thick under brush and the fallen trees near our rear property line, we also heard something large crashing through the under brush while it was running away from the area we were clearing.
Our neighbors to the left that also back up to the woods don’t maintain the brush and trees growing over their rear fences therefore making it easier for animals to climb up onto the trees extending over their rear fences.
This summer we put up a bird feeder, shortly after that we started having problems with opossums, raccoons and rats coming over the fence at night to eat the remaining seed on the ground, there were about four raccoons coming into the yard at night but lately we have only seen one that will still pop his head up over the fence at night while we are sitting on the patio. I assume that this very large bobcat/mountain lion has killed the other raccoons.
Even though this NE area of Harris county is heavily wooded, I never once thought about the possibility of having very large bobcats/mountain lions in this area until actually seeing one on Monday evening 9/12/2011.
After contacting the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, they sent a Wildlife Biologist out on 9/14/2011 to document the sighting, take additional pictures of the tracks and collect hair samples from the top of the fence pickets were this very large bobcat/mountain lion leaped over the fence.
The Wildlife Biologist informed me that she believed this was a very large bobcat and not a mountain lion due to the description I gave her and the cat species behavior.
When I questioned her about the size of the cat species I saw and the size of the tracks, she informed me that bobcats in this region of Texas can get almost as large as a mountain lion.
If you live in a heavily wooded area of Harris county, please be fully aware of your surroundings and what may be just beyond your 6′ high privacy fence. If I spot this very large bobcat in my yard again, I may consider installing razor wire at the top of my rear fence that backs up to the woods and I don’t care what the HOA has to say about it.
(Note): I sent an email requesting an update last Friday 9/16/2011 to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Biologist that came out on 9/14/2011 to investigate this sighting, below is the latest response I received from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department biologist on 9/19/2011.
Hi Mr Wooddell,
Thank you for your questions. I will turn in the hair sample, along with my report to Austin. I can’t tell the species ID from the hair, just that it’s a hair. It could have come from the cat, raccoon, squirrel, or other. Because I am Identifying your sighting as a likely bobcat, I don’t think anything further will be done with the hair sample.
Like we discussed on Wednesday, from your description, the animal behaved the way we want it to react – with fear of you and your property. It ran as quickly as possible to leave your area. That’s exactly what we want. In my opinion, I doubt you’ll ever see it again. Bobcats are not known for hurting or attacking people. In fact, in all my years growing up in Houston, I’ve never heard a report of a bobcat acting negatively toward a person. When you’re in the backyard at night, make some noise. Plus your large dogs are a deterrent as well.
Enjoy the rain! If you have any other questions, feel free to contact me.
Also this past weekend we spoke to our neighbor about my very large bobcat/mountain lion sighting on 9/12/2011, he lives a few houses down to the left of us and his house also backs up to this heavily wooded area. He informed us that when he was coming home the other night he saw what appeared to be a very large cat species animal in the field to the right of my house. Also his small dog that he kept in his fenced back yard disappeared about two weeks ago.
On 9/19/2011 I sent an email regarding this latest information to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Biologist that investigated the sighting and I still haven’t received any response as of 9/21/2011.
After researching the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department web site I discovered that the information they provide online regarding the difference between the bobcat & mountain lion paw/track impression sizes contradicts with what the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department Biologist told me about bobcats reaching the size of mountain lions in this region of Texas. It makes a difference to me if a very large bobcat is roaming NE Houston and has paw/track impressions as large as a mountain lion. If a supposed bobcat can reach the size of a mountain lion in this region of Texas. It’s still dangerous to people, small children & domestic pets.
The Texas Parks & Wildlife web site states:
Bobcat front paw tracks are usually 1-1/4″ wide and the rear paw tracks are usually 1-1/2″ wide and
mountain lion front paw tracks are usually 2″ to 3″ wide and the rear paw tracks are 1-3/4″ to 2″ wide.
The paw track impressions in my back yard were about 2-1/2″ to 3″ wide and were verified by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Biologist but they are leading me to believe they were bobcat tracks?
I want to get this information out to the residents of NE Houston and the residents in rural areas of Harris county so they will be aware that there are very large cat species ( bobcats or mountain lions ) roaming in heavily wooded areas of Harris county.
Photos: Tim Wooddell