Skip to Content

The Science and Skill of Trapping Bobcats: A Comprehensive Tutorial

Bobcats are clever and solitary animals that occupy expansive territories. They are notoriously challenging to catch and they are some of the best hunters in the feline family.

Once these animals become residents in suburban or urban areas, they cause problems for humans and domesticated animals alike. Trapping bobcats becomes essential when they are a threat to the safety of native wildlife and begin stalking populated areas.

Keep reading to learn all about trapping bobcats, including bobcat hunting techniques for your greatest chances for success.

A bobcat walking in a wooded setting. Trapping bobcats.

Laws and Regulations

A trapping license is generally required for trapping bobcats in most states in the United States. Some states have bobcat season for hunting and trapping so just make sure that you do your research on your state laws and regulations.

Tracking Bobcats

The first step to trapping bobcats is to track the big cats. Bobcats populate a variety of areas because they are extremely adaptable animals. You may find them in forests, swamps, trees, bushes, cliffs, long grassy areas, rocky outcroppings, and dry creek beds.

Bobcats may also populate abandoned buildings, as well as rural and suburban areas where less human traffic is found. To track a bobcat, you should look for cat-like tracks in areas where bobcats tend to populate. Once you have monitored their behavior and location, you’ll have a better idea of where to set out your traps.

Bobcat tracks are larger than the tracks of domesticated cats but they are smaller than tracks for wild dogs or coyotes. If you find any bobcat scat anywhere, this is an excellent indication of an area bobcats frequent. It also allows you to analyze the food they have ingested so you know what to bait your traps with.

You’ll most likely find bobcats in areas with rocky ledges so they can easily read their surroundings to know what is coming toward them.

Trapping Bobcats

Trapping bobcats in general requires patience and practice. Bobcats don’t usually deviate from their travel paths more than a few feet, but you can always try to lure them from their comfort areas by redirecting ground cover, making runaways with sticks or logs, or even using feathers, fur, or animals as bait to lure them in.

A bobcat caught in a foothold trap.
A bobcat caught in a foothold trap.

Types of Live Traps

There are a few different types of live traps to choose from, including cubby sets, blind sets, flag sets, trash piles, and trail sets. Each one has its own positives and drawbacks, so it’s really up to your preferences on which trap you use. These big cats can be trapped using many of the same sets that are used to trap foxes and coyotes

Coil spring foothold traps, long spring foothold traps, and cage traps are the main types of traps that are recommended for trapping bobcats. Powered cable devices can also be used only if they are used to catch the bobcat by the foot.

Cubby Set Bobcat Traps

A cubby-set bobcat trap is used in conjunction with a body grip trap and is located in the bobcat’s path to the bait. You can also use powered cable devices in a cubby set-style trap.

Blind Set for Bobcats

With blind sets, you can get either single or double trap sets that should be placed in holes that are directly in the bobcat’s path, nearby obstructions like exposed roots, rocks, or clumps of weeds.

Make sure you have your set firmly bedded in the ground and then cover it with finely pulverized earth to cover up the inside of the trap jaws. Use sticks and stones to guide the bobcat into your trap, since the cats will try to avoid stepping on the objects.

Flag Set for Bobcats

A flag-set trap for bobcats takes advantage of cats’ natural curiosity with a ‘flag’ that hangs from a tree. This flag can be made from a piece of fur, feathers, or other things that naturally pique the curiosity of bobcats.

After crafting the flag, use a fine wire or a string to hang it from a tree limb so that it’s suspended about four feet above ground level. Then you should pile dirt into a mound under the flag, so the bobcat will try to climb the mound to reach the flag. After doing this, bury a foothold trap in the mound so the bobcat will step right onto the trap as they reach for the flag.

Trash Pile Set for Bobcats

A trash pile set trap for bobcats is made to look like a bobcat trash pile, mimicking that bobcats tend to cover up their leftover food to hide it from other predators.

You should put a foothold trap in front of the trash pile set and incorporate sticks on the sides of your traps to guide the cat into the trap. Bait should be placed against a rock or tree near the trash pile set so that the bobcat must cross over the trap to reach the bait.

Trail Set for Bobcats

Trail sets for bobcats are generally used to trap bobcats along their natural trails. For instance, bobcat trails can be found along the base of a cliff, at the entrance of their den, or even through holes in fences or brush.

For trail sets, you can use a body grip trap with bait or a lure, or a powered cable device without bait or lures, or you can use cage traps to set around the bobcat’s trails, den, and hunting areas. For a cage trap, you’ll want to cover the top and sides of the cage with a brush and cover the bottom of the trap with loose soil.

Lethal Trapping

Lethal traps like long springs or coil traps are true kill traps that will effectively crush the skull of any animal that tries to pass through its open jaws.

Trappers generally use these to prevent bobcats from killing their livestock or domesticated animals. These traps come in many different sizes and can be used where bobcats are known to populate.


Each state makes its own laws and regulations when it comes to lethal bobcat trapping so make sure you do your research on your state before you decide to use lethal traps.

Baiting Bobcat Traps

Closeup of a bobcat track in mud.
A bobcat track in mud.

Bobcats are finicky and they aren’t as easily attracted by scents or lures as some other wild animals are. These big cats are carnivores so meat and fish are great to use as bait when trapping bobcats.

Any meats that have a strong scent work very well for luring in bobcats, so fragrant meat like sardines and mackerel. Some people even use hotdogs are bait for bobcats and you can use several different lures for the same bobcat.

You’ll want to put your lures as close to the trap as possible. Trees are great for this purpose. The bait should be near the trap but not over the trap. You’ll need to make sure the bait is at the back of the cage if you’re using cage traps.

You can also use bobcat scent for trapping bobcats more accurately and efficiently. You can use the gland scent of the bobcat or even its urine. If you’re using urine make sure to spray it around the trap.

Monitoring Bobcat Traps

Experienced trappers know that monitoring bobcat traps is a crucial part of trapping. When you set out traps you make a commitment to monitor the traps daily until you remove them. Since bobcats, like most fur-bearing animals, are nocturnal it’s best if you check the traps early each morning.

Reasons to monitor your bobcat traps include preventing escape from live traps, releasing non-target animals, and minimizing the risk that a predator will get to your catch before you do.

Releasing Trapped Bobcats

Bobcats, like most big cats, are very ferocious animals when trapped so you will need to proceed with caution when releasing your trapped bobcats to make sure they don’t get the chance to attack.

If you’re releasing a trapped bobcat you should use a catch pole and wear protective clothing like rubber boots, and gloves, with long-sleeved tops and long bottoms. The main concerns with releasing a trapped bobcat are being scratched or bitten, which can transmit diseases and parasites that bobcats are known to carry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do people trap bobcats?

Bobcats are trapped for a multitude of different reasons. Farmers tend to trap bobcats because they are a danger to livestock, sneaking through fences and slaughtering chickens, goats, and other small livestock. They are also a danger to domesticated animals. Some trappers target bobcats for their highly sought-after pelts.

Are bobcats easy to trap?

Bobcats can be tricky to trap, but for the most part, if you’re using a live trap baited with fragrant meat, like mackerel and sardines, they are easy to lure into a cage trap or foot-hold trap.

Wrapping Up Trapping Bobcats

A bobcat on rocks.

Whether you’re trying to keep the bobcats away from your livestock, prevent them from killing your domesticated pets, or you’re trapping them for their pelts, we hope this comprehensive tutorial has been a helpful guide in getting you started.

If you’re looking for more information on trapping medium-sized predators, check out our detailed guide on trapping coyotes.