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´╗┐Title: Hints on Bobcat Trapping - USDA Leaflet No. 78
Author: Young, Stanley P.
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcriber Notes

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                                HINTS ON




                         [Illustration: Bobcat]


                     [Illustration: LEAFLET NO. 78]

BOBCAT is the name by which the wild cats of the genus Lynx are known
in most of the United States, particularly the warmer parts--West
and Southwest. Though related to the mountain lion, or cougar, both
being members of the same family, the bobcat is a much smaller animal
and of somewhat different habits, so far as the selection of prey is
concerned. Its larger cousin, the Canada lynx, is found in the northern,
more forested, parts of the United States and in Canada. The economic
relations of the two are similar, except as forest-dwelling habits
are modified by the bobcat's environment of plains and deserts in the
Southwest. The bobcat has keen eyesight and a good sense of smell,
though the latter is not so acute as in the wolf or the coyote. Most of
its hunting for food is done at night, and the animal is aided by sight
rather than by scent. The advance of settlement and the occupation of
the bobcat's former ranges for stock raising have not so much crowded
back this predator as they have given it a new and satisfying provender,
particularly in the young of the flocks and herds of the stockman and
the poultry of the farmer. Control of its depredations at times becomes
necessary to man's economic welfare.

Washington, D. C. Issued June, 1931

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C. Price 5


By Stanley P. Young, _Principal Biologist, in Charge Division of
Predatory-Animal and Rodent Control, Bureau of Biological Survey_



  Nature of depredations                         1

  Where to trap                                  2

  "Blind" trap sets                              2

  Scented trap sets                              3

  Preparation of scent                           4

  Catnip oil as a lure                           5

  Care in details                                5
    Rust on traps                                6
    Frozen ground                                6
    Deodorizing traps                            6
    Paper trap pads                              6

  Resetting traps                                6

TRAPPING has been found to be one of the most effective methods of bobcat
control. On its wild ranges the bobcat feeds to a large extent upon
rabbits and other injurious rodents, but it preys also upon such valuable
forms of wild life as antelope, deer, and other game animals, especially
the fawns, and on wild turkeys, quail, and other ground-nesting birds.
With human occupation of its former haunts, it finds in the young of
domestic livestock very satisfactory substitutes for its ordinary fare
in the wild. When its food is less easily obtained in nature than among
the flocks and herds of the range country, it may become exceedingly
destructive to domestic livestock, especially to sheep during the lambing
season, to pigs, goats, and calves, and to poultry. The depredations of
bobcats in parts of Arkansas in recent years have made hog raising on
an extensive scale impracticable in such localities. Losses caused by
this predatory animal among sheep are particularly severe when lambing
is conducted on the open range and the lambing grounds are in close
proximity to the broken, rough, rocky canyons that favor the presence of
the bobcat. Sheepmen often choose such rugged country for lambing grounds
because of the protection it affords against storms.

Nature of Depredations

On gaining entry into a flock of sheep at lambing time, commonly under
cover of darkness, the bobcat carries on its depredations in such
manner as to cause little commotion there. The lamb is usually killed
by a characteristic bite on the back of the neck or head, and then it
is pulled down to be eaten. If its lust for killing is not satisfied,
the bobcat may kill other lambs by the same method, continuing its work
quietly until a large number have been destroyed. A single bobcat has
been known to kill 38 lambs in this manner in one night.

Bobcats are easily caught in traps of the common double-spring steel
type, in sizes 2 and 3. Such traps have been used by many generations
of trappers, and although deemed inhumane by some persons, no better or
more practical device has yet been invented to take their place. The
brief description here presented of trapping methods to be used in bobcat
control is based on field experiences of Federal and cooperative trappers
who have applied methods developed by the Bureau of Biological Survey.

Where to Trap

In selecting a site for trap sets, one should be guided to a large
extent by the tracks of the animal (fig. 1) and by other traces of its
presence, which are commonly found in the rugged recesses of the open
range. Such places as leached limestone ridges, limestone cap rock, or
eroded granitic canyons containing an abundance of small caverns and
holes surrounded by rather extensive underbrush form the ideal habitat
of the bobcat. This may be in low-lying country or in adjacent higher
mountainous areas. Though it is advisable to use the greatest caution in
setting bobcat traps, the care with which the art is practiced need not
be so great as in the case of the wolf or the coyote.

When the trail of a bobcat has been found, by track or sign, along, or
leading from its rocky lair, traps may be placed in either double or
single sets. If the trail is not frequently used by livestock also, or
by such big-game animals as deer, the so-called "blind" trap set may be
employed. This set is called a blind because no lure or scent need be
used around it when completed.

[Illustration: Figure 1.--"Blind" or trail set being placed for bobcats.
Trails used by both bobcats and cattle make ideal situations tor placing
the blind set for predators during periods when stock is removed from
such parts of the range]

"Blind" Trap Sets

Whether single or double blind trap sets are employed, they should be
placed in holes dug directly in the trail of the bobcat close to such
an obstruction as an exposed root, a rock, or a clump of weeds, for the
bobcat seldom fails to step over rather than on such an obstruction in
its path. (Fig. 2.) If the double set is to be used, the trap holes
should be only about 1 inch apart, separated just far enough to prevent
interference of the jaws when the trap is sprung. Each hole should be
dug only slightly larger than the size of the trap and just deep enough
to hold the set trap and allow this to be slightly lower than the level
of the surrounding ground. When two traps are used, they may be joined
together with a lap link at the ends of their chains, which in turn may
be attached to a stake pin driven slightly below the ground level; or a
drag may be used either made of wrought iron or consisting of a fairly
heavy stone. The drag should be bedded under the traps, in which case
more excavating will be required. It is well to have a free-acting swivel
at the top of the stake pin to prevent a captive animal from twisting and
breaking the trap chains attached to it.

[Illustration: Figure 2.--Details of setting trap for bobcat in trail;
trap bedded just beyond a natural obstruction in the path; the working
parts of trap are lightly packed with cotton to insure springing when the
ground is frozen]

After the trap has been firmly bedded it is advisable to cover it
with fine pulverized earth similar to that found in the mound of a
pocket gopher. This will do for the spring of the trap. Dry and finely
pulverized horse or cow manure may be more advantageously used to cover
the inside of the trap jaws. Care should be taken to keep all loose dirt
from getting under the pan and to see that there is an open space beneath
it of at least a quarter of an inch.

A trap pad made of canvas or of old descented slicker cloth for finally
covering the pan should now be placed on the inside of the jaws; then
over all should be sprinkled dry dirt to the depth of a quarter to a half
inch, of the same color as the ground surrounding the trap. The spot
where the trap is buried should be left in as natural a condition as

Scented Trap

A scent attractive to bobcats may be used to advantage to lure the
animals to trap sets. When scenting is resorted to, however, the traps
should not be placed in the runway proper, but on either side of it, or
on one side only, and parallel to Sets the trail. They should be set in
the same manner as described for the blind sets, between the trail and
the spot selected for scattering the scent. (Fig. 3.) This spot should be
no more than 6 to 8 inches from the trap. In placing the scent, advantage
should be taken of any stubble, bunch of weeds, exposed root, or object
known as a scent post. These are so termed from the fact that they are
the places selected by the animal for voiding urine or feces.

Bobcats usually have their scent posts slightly off the trail, on stubble
of range grasses, on bushes, or even on old bleached-out carcasses.
Where the ground conditions are right for good tracking, natural scent
posts may be detected by the claw scratches and the small mound of dirt
where the bobcat has covered its excrement. Such habits are similar to
those of house cats. In passing along its trails, the bobcat will usually
revisit these scent posts.

When natural scent posts can not be readily found, one may be easily
established along the determined trail of a bobcat by dropping scent (of
a kind to be described) on a few clusters of weeds, spears of grass, or
stubble of low brush. The trap should be set between the trail and the
place scented, about 6 or 8 inches from each. (Fig. 4.) Any number of
such scent stations may be placed along a determined trail. The farther
from the trail a trap is set, however, the more scent will be needed. For
dropping the scent, a 2 to 4 ounce bottle fitted with a shaker cork may
be used.

[Illustration: Figure 3.--Placing a scent set for bobcats: A, double trap
set, placed as in blind sets, but a few inches off the trail instead of
directly in it; B, traps bedded, and springs and jaws properly covered
and pan unobstructed, ready for covering with a trap pad, on which the
topsoil is to be spread. Scent sets are placed between the trail and a
clump of weeds or other natural or artificial scent posts]

Preparation of Scent

The basis of the scent may be any kind of fish, but oily varieties, such
as sturgeon, eels, suckers, and carp, are preferred. The flesh should
be ground in a sausage mill, placed in strong tin or galvanized-iron
cans, and left in a warm place to decompose thoroughly. Each can must be
provided with a small vent to allow the escape of gas, otherwise there
is danger of explosion. The aperture, however, should be screened with
a fold of cloth to prevent flies from depositing eggs, as the mixture
seems to lose much of its scent quality when maggots develop in it. This
preparation may be used within three days after mixing, but it is more
lasting and penetrating when it is about a month old.

Fish scent alone gives excellent results, but several modifications
have been found highly effective. To the decomposed fish as a basis may
be added mice, beaver castors, musk glands from minks, weasels, and
muskrats, and the bladders of coyotes and bobcats. Oil gives body to the
scent and to a certain extent prevents freezing. If the mixture appears
too thin, glycerin, brains, fish oil, butterfat, or other animal fat,
such as that from woodchucks and ground squirrels, may be added.

The hunter may commence with a quantity of ground fish placed in a large
galvanized-iron container, similar to a milk can, and as the original lot
is used on the trap line, he may replenish it by adding more fresh fish
and others of the ingredients mentioned. The addition of new material
from time to time seems to improve the desirable qualities of the scent

[Illustration: Figure 4.--Details of placing scent set on cleared space
between the trail and a clump of higher weeds or grass used as a scent
post. Between the trap set and the scent post may be buried a jar having
perforated top and containing cotton saturated with oil of catnip; or
other scent material may be sprinkled on the clump of weeds to lure the
bobcat to the trap]

Catnip Oil as a Lure

Oil of catnip, diluted in the proportion of 35 drops of the pure oil to
2 ounces of petrolatum, has proved an effective lure in bobcat trapping.
As this is a fine oil, the petrolatum is used to give it body, and this
tends also to prevent loss of the scent when exposed to rain. Pure catnip
oil is manufactured at a few places in the United States, but if the pure
oil is not obtainable, the leaves of the catnip plant may be boiled to
a pulpy consistency in water, and this will produce a mild tincture of
catnip which can be drawn off. Catnip in this form has been used as a
lure by some trappers with a fair degree of success. A few drops of the
mixture of petrolatum and pure catnip oil, or of the tincture, should be
placed on the scent spot every third day.

Some Biological Survey hunters employ this lure by burying at one side
of a bobcat runway a small glass jar or bottle (fig. 4) into which has
been dropped gauze or cotton batting, saturated with catnip oil. The
mouth of the container is left open, but level with the ground, and is
protected by a perforated top. If the top is bright, it should be made
inconspicuous by moistening it, and while wet brushing it over with dust
or sand. Trap sets placed, as described around such scent points have
accounted for many bobcats.

Care in Details

Success in trapping, whether for bobcats or for other predators, is in
many respects dependent upon the trapper's attention to what might seem
to be minor details. While digging holes for the sets it is well for the
trapper to stand or kneel on a "setting cloth," which is made of canvas
or a piece of sheepskin or calf hide about 3 feet square. Human scent
on the canvas may be avoided by previously burying the cloth in an old
manure pile. The dirt removed from the place where the trap is bedded
may be piled on the setting cloth. Surplus dirt not needed for covering
the trap should be scattered evenly on the ground at some distance from
the set. It is well also to wear gloves while setting traps, and to use
them for no other purpose, though the precautions against arousing the
suspicion of bobcats are less necessary than those in trapping wolves and

_Rust on traps._--Rust is often the cause of the failure of traps to
spring properly, particularly when the trap pan rusts on its post. Most
steel traps are so constructed that when the trap pan is moved back and
forth it will spread the joint and thus permit the pan to work freely.
Putting a few drops of fine oil on the post, as well as in the slots that
hold the jaws at the base of the trap, will overcome such difficulties.

_Frozen ground._--When the ground is frozen it is difficult to keep the
traps in working order. Some hunters overcome this difficulty by lining
the bottom of the hole in which the trap is to be bedded with clean
coarse cotton or wool, and by packing more of this material around the
pan, springs, and jaws after the trap is placed. When the ground is
frozen, the dirt cover for the set can be made of such debris as is found
on ant hills, or by using dead leaves or the fine earth obtained under
spruce, fir, hemlock, or aspen trees.

_Deodorizing traps._--When received from dealers or manufacturers, traps
frequently smell of grease, perspiration from human hands, or other odors
caused by contact with various kinds of merchandise in the course of
shipment. As some of these odors are likely to arouse the suspicion of
predators, it is advisable to clean all traps before using them. This may
be done by boiling them in a tincture of sage leaves, or of leaves from
other native trees. Common soil is a good deodorizer, but it acts slowly.
Simply burying the traps for a few days in a manure pile (the odor from
which does not arouse the predator's suspicion) will often remove all
other odors. It is better, however, before using traps to clean them by
boiling, as mentioned. Never attempt to burn off an odor over a fire, as
this may destroy the temper of the springs and make the trap worthless.

_Paper trap pads._--Paper pads are not dependable, as they are usually
too smooth to hold the covering of soil. This is soon swept' off the
paper when the trap is set in a windy place, and when this is gone the
trap is exposed. Furthermore, rain will readily soak a paper pad, causing
it to break or collapse and expose much of the set. Another objection to
paper pads is that when an animal steps lightly into a trap jaw, resting
its toes barely inside of it but not on the trap pan, it is likely to
hear the rustle of the paper under its foot as well as to feel its
smoothness. The result is that it will be shy of that particular spot,
and thus a catch is lost. Trap pads made of fairly thick canvas or woven
wire of fly-screen consistency are therefore preferable to paper pads.
Such trap pads should be free from all odor, and when not in use should
be kept in a clean container, such as the 1-pound cans used for ground

Resetting Traps

The trap may be reset after a bobcat has been caught, the same spot being
used if the ground and the natural surroundings have not been too badly
scratched up or otherwise defaced, and if evidences of disturbance can be
cleared away. It may be highly desirable to reset the sprung trap in the
same place, particularly if other good spots are lacking for scenting or
for taking advantage of the natural obstructions needed for blind sets.

                    *       *       *       *       *

                 U. S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE: 1931

                    *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Notes

As listed in the "CONTENTS", sidenotes in the original are used as
section headers. Illustrations were moved so as not to split paragraphs.

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