Very Large Bobcat Visits Sunrise Pines Back Yard, Doesn’t Stick Around for Dinner

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

16 Comment

  • Great news! Enjoy your wildlife…that’s what happens when we keep encroaching on habitat. Glad there are still wild creatures left out there.

  • Sounds like a mountain lion/cougar.

    At least it weren’t a Bigfoot.

  • I think that it is a proven scientific fact that pumping adrenaline causes objects and animals to appear much larger than they actually are.

  • I don’t think bobcats have long tails…. I agree that adrenaline and darkness can obscure appearances but I don’t think someone could mistake a mountain lion tail and a bobcat tail even under those conditions. At any rate, yes either bobcat or mountain lion are a cause for concern of the safety of your pets.

  • If it was 7′ long, it was a cougar. But more likely it was not quite that big and a bobcat.

    Eyewitness testimony has killed more than one man and misidentified more than one animal.

  • The paw/track impressions weren’t the size of an average bobcat. They were the size of a mountain lion or a very large bobcat.
    The Texas Parks & Wildlife Biologist that visited with me on 9/14/2011 informed me that bobcats in this region of Texas can reach the size of a mountain lion. It doesn’t make a difference to me whether it was a mountain lion or a very large bobcat. This very large cat species I seen left paw/track impressions that were
    2-1/2″ to 3″ wide in my back yard.
    When a Texas Parks & Wildlife Biologist tells me that bobcats can reach the size of mountain lion in this region of Texas, that’s something that concerns me.

  • very large bobcat/mountain lion…very large bobcat/mountain lion…very large bobcat/mountain lion…very large bobcat/mountain lion…very large bobcat/mountain lion

  • About a half a mile north through the woods on Garrett Rd there is a man who has pet lions. Could it be a small lioness. I would hate to see a lion loose in Sheldon. Good luck.

  • Contact these guys. They seem to do a pretty good job investigating various sightings.

  • sheesh – there was no Sasquatch in this guy’s backyard!
    Get a grip on reality.
    If the H/O is SURE he saw a long tail then I believe it WAS a mountain-lion/cougar/panther/catamount in his yard.
    Wildlife surprises us by showing up where they’re thought to be extirpated.
    I lived in The Woodlands and had coyote, fox, and wild pigs walk right past my backyard. I saw kingfisher, Bald Eagle, beaver, otter, nutria, scorpion, black-widows, and Ladies Tresses, a very rare orchid.
    All that’s required is LOOKING.

  • Thanks LakeDog for the web site link.
    Also I informed Swamplot that I would notify them of any future updates I may receive from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department or from the Wildlife Biologist that investigated the sighting.
    The last email update I received on 9/19/11 from the TP&WD Biologist was to inform me that she was sending the paw/track impression pictures and hair samples collected to Austin for analysis, but she also indicated that since she was reporting the incident as a possible bobcat sighting, she doubted any further action would be taken regarding analyzing the hair samples.
    Even though there was evidence of up to 3″ paw/track impressions and hair samples from the top of my fence, I feel that the TP&WD is downplaying my sighting to avoid scaring the general public. I’m just not buying into the the TP&WD Biologists explanation that bobcats can reach the size of mountain lions in this region of Texas and if that’s true that they can reach that size, that’s still a concern for me.
    In the last email I received from the TP&WD Biologist, she advised me to make noise when sitting on my patio at night as a deterent and informed me that my dogs would also help deter this large cat species from coming back into my yard. The advise she provided still doesn’t keep me from being concerned about the possibility of this large cat species coming into one of my neighbors yard and possibly injurying an unsupervised small child or domestic pet. Also as of 9/25/11 the TP&WD Biologist still hasn’t replied to my email I sent her on 9/19/11 requesting additional information.
    Even though I was very uncomfortable being on camera about my large cat species sighting with media outlets KPRC2 & FOX26,
    I don’t regret my decision for contacting the media as long as it helped to inform residents near heavily wooded areas of Harris and neighboring counties to be more aware of their surroundings regarding potential dangerous wildlife.

  • We have had cougars travel through the rural areas of Harris County for years. I saw one crossing the road near Tomball several years ago. This one was a young one, about a year old, most likely a young male moving on to find a new territory. They will follow creeks and wooded areas to find food and new mates. They have been spotted several times near Spring Creek, south of the Woodlands. They may be coming closer and more bold with the drought and decline of food source.

    If you live in an area that backs up to a natural area, wooded creek, or other undeveloped area, it would be wise not to leave small pets outside alone from sunset to dawn. That’s when the big cats hunt.

  • The ‘screaming women’ sound you’ve heard are probably peacocks. I’ve seen some really big bobcats around Angleton, it’s suprising how big they get.

  • As I mentioned in my 1st email to Swamplot, I’ve lived here for over 4 years, if I had seen an average size bobcat in my backyard I would have never contacted Swamplot, or Fox 26 about my sighting nor would I have granted an interview with KPRC2 when they showed up my front door without notice. I would like to hear the oppinions of BigDaddy, LakeDog, Movocelot, Lynn, Ricemilitaryboy & Pudeeriginerd about the the Texas Parks & Wildlife Urban Biologist not responding to my last email I sent her on 9/19/11. Maybe her superiors instructed her to downplay the sighting to avoid causing the general public from having doubts about living in a heavily wooded area of Harris County. I plan to inform the residents of Sunrise Pines and the builder’s representative of my sighting along with pictures at the HOA meeting on 10/5/11. Also I wonder if the home builders in heavily wooded areas of Harris county have any political influence on downplayng my sighting.

  • I live in Tomball and sometime in the beginning of August (before your story aired on the news) my son spotted what he thought was a mountain lion in the middle of the night running across our very isolated street. I thought he was crazy until I told the neighbor across the street about it. She got a funny look on her face and told me that her husband leaves VERY early in the mornings and he told her he had seen one too. At the time, she told him he was crazy….until I told her the same thing. I really wonder if the drought and/or wild fires are causing some of these animals to change locations.

  • I’m thrilled to learn that big cats are still in our suburbs!
    They are not going to grab you while you mow the lawn. You’re not going to leave your 6-month-old on a jogging path unattended.

    Squirrels, moles, rats, possums and racoons living in a city-environment have no predator (except pesticides & traffic.)
    Not meaning to sound heartless, stray dogs and feral cats are meals for larger animals too – if the predator can reach them.
    I believe it’s a win-win to provide avenues for predators to access their prey.
    Yep, I’m both a country bumpkin and an efficiency expert.