Don't shoot bobcats with arrows, say Calgary officials dealing with increased sightings

City officials are trying to calm the nerves of Calgarians after a bobcat was shot with an arrow in the southwest community of Mission last Thursday, prompting the need to put the wild cat down.

Police say they rushed to help the injured wild cat, but it was determined there was nothing they could do at an emergency vet clinic.

Residents have raised concerns about the increase in bobcat sightings around the city, especially in areas they are not normally seen — saying it's leading to dangerous situations.

But Chris Manderson, an urban conservation lead with the city, says most Calgarians won't actually run into a bobcat — even with a rise in migration to the city.

"Since about 2014 it's actually gone up almost 600 per cent, so we're getting 1,000 phone calls a year," he said, but added one phone call does not equal one bobcat — so the city will get multiple calls per sighting in most cases.

Police told CBC News on Monday they are no longer investigating the incident; however, if charges were laid it would be in relation to firing a weapon within city limits.

CBC also contacted Alberta Fish and Wildlife to inquire if any potential charges could be laid in this case, such as animal cruelty, but they have not yet replied.

Manderson has nothing good to say about the person behind the arrow, as shooting the wild cat was not necessary or amusing, but can't say if the population boom was behind it.

"It's the first incident I'm aware of, but definitely not a good thing to happen," he said.

Manderson says Calgary has a very healthy population of prairie hares and feral rabbits — which are bunnies that start out as pets and get left outside to become feral  — so bobcats have a pretty good prey base in the city.

"We get people phone in because they notice them and they're noticing them because they're hearing about them on social media or they're hearing about them in the media," he said.

"I think they're following their food sources. I think what they're doing is they're following them around the city."

No real concern

Manderson says the city doesn't see the urban bobcats as a big concern.

There has been at least one attack involving a human, according to the Calgary Herald which reported a 70-year-old woman who was badly injured last summer. There have also been cases of pets being attacked.

Teresa Calla

Still, Manderson says in the city's experience the wild cats generally tune people out.

"They're there to do their thing and they don't tend to pay a lot of attention to people and are really a good example of an urban predator that sort of blends in and does its thing," he said.

"I mean like any wild animal obviously you should be respectful and keep your distance. If they feel cornered or threatened they may make their displeasure known." 

Manderson says the city usually hears from the public that they like the fact the animals are making use of their community.

"I think the best way to handle it is to watch and enjoy the fact that you're able to see a bobcat hanging out in your neighborhood," he said.

If you see a bobcat

According to Alberta Fish and Wildlife, it's unlikely a bobcat would attack a person. But pets can be vulnerable, and protecting those pets can create dangerous situations.

If you know bobcats are in the area, it's wise to keep your cats inside and watch over small dogs, the department says.

Bobcats generally eat rabbits, hares and other small mammals, like mice and squirrels. But they're highly adaptable and when they live near human development, they may start to lose their fear of people and the noises of the city. 

The province offers several tips for dealing with bobcats in urban settings:

  • Be sure the bobcat has not made a den for kittens somewhere on your property. Kittens are usually born April to June and they stay with their mother for up to a year.
  • If you're sure you've got bobcats in your yard, take away your birdfeeders and baths so the birds don't become prey.
  • Keep your garbage and recycling closed tight, and don't leave pet food outside.
  • If there are no kittens, be sure the bobcat has an escape route — open any gates on your property so it has an easy exit and the bobcat can "leave in its own time."