Bobcats frolic on Hutchinson patio

Every day millions of people turn on their televisions to watch seldom-seen wildlife. Sunday afternoon Perry and Shari McCabe of Hutchinson only had to look out their back door to enjoy the up-close antics of four bobcats.

Though plentiful in Kansas, bobcats are rarely seen.

"We had two (kittens) playing around on the patio like a couple of (domestic) kittens," said Perry McCabe. "They were snooping around, jumping around and batting at each other. One almost had its nose on the door looking in. "

He said an adult cat, probably a female, and another kitten were watching the patio antics from about 25 yards away.

They watched the bobcats for about four minutes. McCabe was able to take several photos through a glass door.

The McCabes live east of Hutchinson, near Prairie Dunes golf course. A region of mixed housing developments and brushy sandhill pastures, it is an area where humans and wildlife often meet.

The region holds some of the highest wild turkey densities in the nation. It also has some of Kansas' highest deer/vehicle collision rates.

McCabe said they frequently see deer and turkeys in their yard and once saw a bobcat while on a walk. Sunday was the first time they'd seen them in their yard.

It's not because there's a shortage of bobcats in the area.

"We have a lot of bobcats around," said Charlie Cope, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks biologist. "Unlike some other species of mammals, like raccoons, it's taking them longer to get acclimated to the presence of people. They're still pretty shy."

Cope said a good number of bobcats can exist near civilization. Chisholm Creek and several other large parks in the area have healthy populations. They're also at home along area rivers and creeks, plus sizable patches of grass and woodlots.

Bobcats are found in all Kansas counties and have a range that stretches from coast to coast and from much of Canada into central Mexico.

Because Kansas has vast amounts of prairie and woodlands it has one of America's top bobcat populations. Such habitats produce plenty of the rabbits and rodents on which bobcats feed. They'll routinely kill turkeys and have been known to kill and eat small deer.

At an average weight of 15-30 pounds, and with a deep fear of people, they're not considered a threat to humans unless cornered or handled.

Cope said contact between humans and bobcats could increase as people encroach into bobcat habitat and the animals become better adapted to being around humans.

Some of the contact might not be popular with people.

"They'll probably learn to make good use of some easy meals like dog food and cat food," Cope said. "No doubt they could kill and eat (pet) cats and real small dogs."

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