Bobcat seen in Newport

Dover Shores residents have mixed feelings about the newest addition to their Newport Beach neighborhood — a 5-year-old bobcat they’ve dubbed Babe.

Residents contacted animal control Wednesday after the bobcat was chased up a tree by a dog; however, officers left after a few hours without removing the animal, resident Doug Ayers said.

Bobcat populations spike in the springtime, and animal control receives about four calls a week from concerned homeowners who have spotted the animals roaming their yards, said Police Sgt. Steve Burdette, who handles media inquiries on behalf of animal control.

“Our policy is not to trap or relocate, just to monitor the animal’s activity,” Burdette said. “We would only remove [the bobcat] if it was a danger to humans.”

Biologist and bobcat expert Dick Newell has been following the patterns of the bobcats in the Upper Newport Bay area for more than 10 years, he said, and has never seen one hostile to humans.

The 17-pound Babe has been tracked by Newell since 2006.

The large cat is known to act comfortably around visitors to the Upper Newport Beach Bay Ecological Preserve, Newell said.

The bobcat is most likely preparing to give birth and will move back to the bay once the cubs have finished nursing in a couple of weeks, he explained.

”[Babe] has no desire to be this close to us. She just needs the protection being close to humans gives her babies from the coyotes,” Newell said.

However, not all neighbors in the community are comfortable with the bobcat’s presence.

Babe was seen eating the rabbits Ayers keeps as pets in his backyard by his housekeeper, who fled inside after the feline reportedly hissed and spat at her.

“I have no interest in harming the animal, but I just hate to see some kid or small dog coming into an encounter with that thing,” Ayers said, adding that it would be best for the neighborhood if the bobcat were relocated closer to the bay.

Another neighborhood resident spotted the bobcat while walking his dog in the evening and was startled when the animal didn’t immediately flee.

“It was underneath a street lamp, and I could see that it had that eerie stripping. It was wild looking,” Ric Whiting, a resident of 16 years, said.

Whiting said he’s never seen a bobcat, but was aware of their presence because of the signs at the preserve.

While he wouldn’t necessarily leave his dog tied up outside overnight, Whiting said he doesn’t feel that the bobcat is a threat to anyone.

“Just leave them alone,” his wife, Sally Whiting, said. “I’m in the ‘they were here first’ crowd.”

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