What to Do if you See a Bobcat While Hiking

Bobcats are very elusive animals, so even if you’ll be hiking in a place with a lot of bobcats it’s very unlikely for you to actually see one. But part of what makes them concerning while hiking is the fact you probably won’t see one. They like to hang out in the shadows, and so if a bobcat is around, it’s probably seen you well before you ever happen spot it. Which, begs the question, what do you do if you see a bobcat while hiking? 

The best approach to handling a bobcat while hiking is to not approach it or turn your back to it. Instead, you’ll want to make as much noise as possible or use water to scare it away. It’s important to never run away from a bobcat, as that can trigger a prey respond and an attack. 

Although it may be very uncommon to encounter a bobcat while hiking, it’s always good to be prepared just in case.  Let’s look into the dangers of bobcats for humans and step by step instructions on what to do in an encounter or an attack. 

brown bobcat walking through tall grass onto a dirt hiking trail

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How Dangerous are Bobcats for Humans?

Bobcats are wild cats, and as such have large teeth, claws, and fast reflexes to attack when they want. From a biology perspective, bobcats have the potential to be very dangerous for humans. They’re also found everywhere, including every contiguous U.S. State, but Delaware. So, if you’ll be hiking in the United States, then bobcats likely exist somewhere around you in the woods.

But, it is extremely rare for a bobcat to ever actually attack a human. They’re typically skittish creatures, who like to stay in the shadows unnoticed and are not aggressive cats who intentionally go after humans. Healthy bobcats generally never attack humans. 

Sick bobcats, however, are the ones that attack. Typically rabies-infected bobcats become a lot more aggressive and may attack humans. Other illness that bobcats develop may also trigger a heightened attack response and lead to an attack. 

So, bobcat attacks are a possibility, but extremely rare. Should one attack, though, you’ll need to know how to properly protect yourself so you can escape safely. 

What Do I Do if I See a Bobcat While Hiking?

What to do if you see a bobcat while hiking will depends on whether the cat has seen you or not. Most likely they have seen you, but if you’ve managed to spot one without being seen first then the best thing to do is leave the area, quietly. Don’t turn your back to the bobcat, but back away slowly in the direction you came and put some distance between you and the cat. 

If the bobcat sees you, then you’ll want to take a more active approach to the encounter. First, don’t ever approach the bobcat. This can be a threatening move and one that can escalate an otherwise non-aggressive situation.

You’ll also want to make sure that you never turn your back to the bobcat. Turning away can make you seem like an easy target, and one that the bobcat may not resist going after. 

Finally, if you see a bobcat never run away. Running triggers the bobcats predatory instincts, and makes you look like prey. Running away will only make the bobcat chase you, and I promise – it’s faster than you. 

How Do I Scare Off a Bobcat?

So, now that we went over what NOT to do (turn away, run, or approach the bobcat), let’s talk about what you should do to scare the bobcat away. 

The first thing to do will be to start making a lot of noise. This could be yelling, blowing an emergency whistle, banging metal water bottles together. Whatever resources you have with you that are loud, use them to make as much noise as possible. 

If that doesn’t appear to be working then you’ll want to start sending things in the direction of the bobcat. If you have water – throwing or spraying water at the bobcat can be incredibly effective at getting it to leave you alone. Cats really don’t like water. 

Additionally, you can throw objects as well – like a water bottle. Just be careful to not bend down to pick up a rock or other object to throw. Crouching down will make you seem like prey. Remain standing and throw whatever objects you have within easy reach without bending over. 

A bobcat standing, hunched, in a green grassy field. Example of a bobcat you may see while hiking

What Do I Do if a Bobcat Attacks?

If all of your preventative techniques didn’t work and the bobcat has decided to attack you then you’ll need to fight back. 

I personally always carry bear spray and knife with me on hikes to protect myself from any type of attack. Always carry protective items so that if you do end up in an attack or an emergency situation, you have a way to protect yourself. 

You’re likely not going to walk away from a bobcat attack without some type of injury. And it’s likely that a diseased bobcat won’t stop it’s attack until it’s been killed. Be fully prepared to protect yourself while hiking so you’ll always be the one to come out on top in any attack. 

Hopefully you’ve found all the information you need about what to do if you encounter a bobcat while hiking. Overall, bobcats will rarely attack humans, but because it’s a possibility it’s always good to know what to do when encountering a bobcat and how to protect yourself in an attack. 

Want to know what to do in other animal encounters? Check out our articles on bears, scorpions, or ticks

If you want more hiking recommendations please check out our hiking tips page, or check out any of the articles below. 

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