Wildlife in Suburban Johnson County
There have been multiple sightings of bobcats, coyotes, and other wildlife within Johnson County in the last couple of weeks. This has led to several questions about what is considered normal activity for each animal, are they usually found in this area, and what kinds of things should people be worried about. Normal activity for wildlife will look different for each species.
Bobcats in the backyard
Bobcats are active during the day, but prefer dawn, twilight, and night hours. They are usually secretive and shy and hard to see. So if you’ve come across a bobcat, consider it a lucky day! They usually move one to four miles per day covering their territory, and kittens can be found with their mothers from summer through winter. Bobcats are capable of hunting prey that range from the size of a mouse to a deer. However, their most common prey consists of rabbits, squirrels, groundhogs, opossums and ground nesting birds.
Bobcats are native to our area, and are continuing to make their home here even with the urban development. If you have a backyard that opens up to a wooded area, it would be good practice to keep a close eye on small pets that spend long amounts of time in the yard. Bobcats tend to stray away from human activity, so the more often you are out and about in your yard, the less likely it will be that a bobcat will consider your yard part of their hunting ground.
Coyotes in the county
Coyotes are most active at night and during the early morning hours. Rabbits, carrion and rodents are what they usually eat, but they will also consume fruits such as watermelon and berries. Coyotes will also take cats and small dogs, and that is one of the main considerations in a suburban area. They avoid humans, so having your dog with you when out on a walk is considered safe. However, just as with bobcats, if you have a backyard that is fairly expansive or close to a natural area, keeping a close eye on pets is advised.
Rabies in wildlife
One of the biggest concerns that people have when interacting with wildlife is rabies. And for good reason. Without immediate treatment following a bite from an infected animal, rabies is almost always fatal, and is also fatal for the animal that is infected as well.
Rabies is a viral disease that is most often transmitted by a bite from an infected animal. It infects the central nervous system and causes disease in the brain and death. When an animal is infected, it can take days, weeks, and even months for the infection to make it to the brain and salivary glands. This is when an animal can pass it on to other animals and humans. The disease is passed through saliva. This is also what causes the ‘foaming at the mouth’ because the disease increases saliva production. Rabid animals can also show non-typical behaviors as rabies can cause confusion and aggression.
If you are concerned that an animal that you have seen is rabid, call your local animal control officer. Do not attempt to get close to the animal or care for it. If you have come into contact with the animal, go to your doctor immediately as rabies is transmitted by saliva. Even if you weren’t bitten, the virus can still make it into your system from a cut or scrape. All mammals are susceptible to the disease, including humans.
Wild animals are to be treated with respect and caution. They are an important part of our ecosystem, and each species plays a unique role. If you are lucky enough to see a bobcat, take a moment to just watch and enjoy the moment. A coyote’s call can be chilling or exciting to listen to and there aren’t many sounds that can match it. All we can do is attempt to live in harmony with our human and wildlife neighbors. Remember, they were here first, and we are the newcomers to the neighborhood!