“There’s a Bobcat on the Porch!”

What would you do if you went outside to get some fresh air and saw a coyote cutting across your backyard? How would you react if you heard a ruckus near your garbage cans and found a bobcat rifling through your trash? Would you respond well to a bear trying to knock down your birdfeeder?
Many homeowners assume that, because they live in the suburbs, the only wild animals that they’ll ever come across are squirrels, rats, and the occasional opossum or raccoon. But as more and more patches of undeveloped land are turned into houses for humans, close encounters of the “furry” kind become harder and harder to avoid. It’s critical, then, to know what actions to take ahead of time. That way, you won’t be caught off-guard if you find yourself face-to-face with an apex predator!

Step 1: Keep Your Cool
As with any wild animal encounter, it’s important to not panic. Try to remember that even large animals typically prefer to avoid humans, so chances are, the creature didn’t wander into your yard with the intention of harming you. Still, if you’re not already indoors when you spot an intruder, you should slowly but surely make your way inside and lock the door behind you. If there are children in the vicinity, calmly tell them to do the same thing that you’re doing. Very small children should be picked up and carried, if possible. And if you’re holding food, drop it on the ground before backing away, as this will distract the animal if it decides to follow you.

Keep your gaze fixed on the creature, but try to avoid making direct eye contact with it. Don’t make any sudden movements, and definitely don’t try to outrun it. All of these behaviors can actually escalate things, as they’ll either provoke the animal into attacking or trigger a “chase” response in their brain. Screaming, stomping your feet, and waving your arms to make yourself look bigger can scare off an animal that’s decided to attack, but just getting away from it is the safer alternative.

Step 2: Do NOT Turn into a Paparazzo
Now, if you spot a wild animal on your property, your knee-jerk reaction may be to think, “I’ve GOTTA get a picture of this!” And that’s okay; this is the kind of experience that you probably want to remember. However, please only try to take a picture or record a video if you can do so without putting yourself in harm’s way. Remember: Bobcats are not housecats, and bears are not dogs! Even normally docile animals, like deer, can lash out (and cause significant harm) when they’re startled or feel threatened, so approaching a dangerous predator is an incredibly bad idea. Document the incident if you’d like, but do not risk your safety and well-being for a neat photo of a coyote napping on your porch or a feral hog digging through your garden!

Be especially wary if the animal in question appears to be a baby, as their mother may be close by and assume that you’re planning to attack her offspring. And know the signs and symptoms of rabies, which can cause wild animals to act especially aggressive or violent.

Step 3: Wait a Little While
The good news is that, unlike pest animals, apex predators typically don’t “set up shop” inside of occupied human homes. Once they’ve finished whatever business they had on your property (be it foraging for food, taking a rest, or investigating a strange smell or sound), they’ll usually be on their merry way—and they won’t make a habit of visiting unless there’s some kind of incentive for them to come back. For this reason, one of the smartest moves you can make if you find an alligator hanging around on your pool deck is to simply be patient. The animal will often show itself out when it’s ready to leave.

Step 4: Call for Reinforcements if Necessary
There may be a situation in which you can’t wait for the animal to leave. Maybe a person in the household is experiencing some kind of issue and needs to get out sooner rather than later. Maybe the animal has been lying around for several hours and you think it might be sick or injured. Or maybe this is the third time this month that you’ve caught a bear in your backyard and you’re tired of having to deal with it!

While you can approach the creature on your own and try to scare it off, that is not always a great strategy—it’s pretty easy to accidentally provoke an animal into attacking, and the results can be tragic for everyone involved. If you have access to a functional firearm, shooting the animal is an option, but for safety and legal (and, depending upon your personal beliefs, ethical) reasons, deadly force should only be used as a last resort to save yourself or a family member from serious harm.

Really, the best thing you can do is call your local Animal Control office and explain the situation; they’ll be able to advise you and, if necessary, send over an expert to nab the animal. These technicians have special training and equipment that enable them to safely “handle” large predators.


There’s nothing wrong with wanting to enjoy urban wildlife, but it’s always a good idea to observe critters from a safe distance. This notion becomes especially important if the animal in question is a large predator. Granted, almost any kind of wild animal can be dangerous to humans; squirrels may look cute and harmless, yet their saliva and feces are fully capable of transmitting all kinds of diseases to an unsuspecting person!

When it comes to wildlife infestations, it’s usually best to let a professional handle the situation. Whether the pest weighs 8 ounces or 80 pounds, this is not the kind of thing you want to rush into completely unprepared and inexperienced!


Photo courtesy of Becker1999 on Flickr