What To Do in the Rare Event You See a Bobcat

Bill Klem, a 20-year resident of San Dimas, captures a rare encounter with a bobcat during his evening walk off San Dimas Avenue. Bobcats can be recognized by their short, bobbed tails and pointed ears. Courtesy: Bill Klem

By Isabel Ebiner

Bill Klem, a 20-year resident of San Dimas, emailed San Dimas Community Post about his recent encounter with a bobcat (edited for clarity):

My wife and I have lived in San Dimas for 20 years. I’ve heard rumors of bobcats in the area but thought this was mostly wishful thinking. But no more — visual confirmation was attained.

My evening walk took me to a local residential association off San Dimas Avenue south of Via Verde. I saw what I thought was a cat, but as I walked by I noticed it had unique markings. It was just sitting there in someone’s yard. Then I paused; then I stared. As I maneuvered for a better look, this feline moved unlike any house cat I’d ever seen, eerily making me feel as if I were the prey. With that as my motivation I took a photo from 15 feet away.

To learn more about bobcats and what to do if you encounter one of these wild cats, we reached out to Kim Bosell, the natural areas administrator for Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation.

Bobcats are “important members of the community,” Bosell said. They control the rodent population by preying on rats, squirrels and rabbits.

And if you are wondering about potential diseases they might carry, Bosell said they carry the same diseases as a house cat.

How can you tell it is a bobcat?

“The easiest defining feature is gonna be the tail of the bobcat,” Bosell said. “A bobcat is named for its bobbed tail. It has a tail that is only like six inches long. Whereas a mountain lion, which is our other wild cat, has a very long tail.”

A bobcat is smaller than a mountain lion but larger than a normal house cat.

While a bobcat’s face can very closely resemble that of your family’s feline, a bobcat’s “ears are kind of tufted or pointed at the top,” Bosell said.

When and where are you most likely to see a bobcat?

Bobcats live in the “urban fringe,” which is the area where the forest and mountains meet, Bosell explained. They are most active during dawn and dusk, as they can see six times better during these hours of the day. Their breeding season is in the springtime, when bobcats will be more likely to move about to find a mate.

What should you do if you encounter a bobcat?

Bosell said, “Bobcats are not aggressive towards humans. They’re very shy and elusive.” 

Bosell recommends treating a bobcat like any other wild animal:

  • Pick up any small children or pets. This will make you appear larger to the bobcat.
  • Give the bobcat space and back away slowly. Do not crouch or turn your back.
  • Let the bobcat know you are there by talking to it or making noise. At this point, the bobcat will likely move away.
  • If the bobcat approaches you, stomp the ground, clap your hands or yell loudly.

Negative human interactions with bobcats are “extremely rare,” according to Bosell.

Where can you learn more about bobcats?

San Dimas Canyon Nature Center invites members of the public to attend their Halloween Nature Crawl on Oct. 23 from 3-6 p.m. The center provides education on all different types of local wildlife, and the event will feature a display specifically about “scary cats,” including bobcats and mountain lions, said Noemi Navar, the Acting Regional Park Superintendent I for the center.


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