Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

November 24, 2012

Resident raises bobcat concerns; officials say to contact state conservation agency

By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

TAZEWELL, Va. — Rural living has its advantages, but there are times when unwanted wild neighbors — bobcats, raccoons or bears — intrude on the scene. That is when it’s time to call state conservation officers.

The Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office now handles cases involving abused and neglected domestic animals such as dogs, cats, horses and livestock, said Sheriff Brian Hieatt. People who call about problems with wild animals are referred to state authorities.

Tazewell resident Linda Hutchinson of Marion Street, a community near the Tazewell County Sheriff Office’s headquarters, recently told the Bluefield Daily Telegraph that she and her neighbors have sighted bobcats near their homes.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries describe bobcats as medium-sized felines weighing 10 to 25 pounds. The species usually favors rugged, mountainous terrain with forests. Parts of Tazewell and Bland counties have some of the larger concentrations of bobcats in Virginia, but the species is found throughout the state.

Hutchinson said she was concerned that bobcats could threaten children and pets.

“That spooks me and I’m afraid to even take my dog out,” she said, adding she was uncertain whom to call about her concerns. “I don’t know what the process is. I feel people need to be on alert.”

Hieatt said his office gives people with wild animal issues the contact numbers for the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. He had not received any calls about bobcats roaming the Tazewell, Va., area.

“Anything like bears and bobcats is handled through them,” Hieatt said.

The game and inland fisheries area office in Marion, Va., can be contacted at 276-783-4860. People with wild animal problems after business hours can call the Richmond, Va., office at 804-367-1258.

Bobcats are generally shy, secretive animals that avoid people. If they are seen near homes, it’s normally because they see a possible food source such as scraps dropped into a compost pile or food left out for dogs or cats, District Wildlife Biologist Bill Bassinger said. Bobcats have been known to kill injured or sick deer.

A bobcat could attack a house cat or a small dog if it saw the opportunity. Bassinger advised pet owners to keep their dogs on a leash and not allow them to roam.

Bassinger said during his 21 years with the department of game and inland fisheries, he has not seen a documented case of a bobcat attacking a person. Bobcats usually avoid people. The one exception was an incident at Augusta County, Va., and that animal turned out to be rabid.

“It’s really something out of the ordinary,” he said of that one instance of a bobcat assaulting a human.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com