The Abbey has a new denizen! Well, not exactly new, since we first made his acquaintance just under a year ago, but he and others of his kind have recently been making appearances at the Abbey and its environs. Four clues to who it is: (1) It is grey-brown with spots and tufted ears; (2) it is shy and secretive; (3) it is an apex predator; and (4) it’s a member of an animal family whom we at the Abbey adore. Did you guess bobcat? Go you!
We first met the bobcat last April, when I happened to catch some motion out of the corner of my eye as we were sitting down to dinner. I looked up and saw something large strutting through the field behind the house that was about coyote sized but didn’t move like a coyote. Moreover, I could see that it had a short tail. Bobcat? Lynx? Around here? In a flurry, DH, DS, and visiting DG (Dear Grandpa) hightailed it outside with the camera to see if they could catch a better glimpse. In a flurry, I hightailed it out to the chickens to put them back inside the barn in case our guest was hungry. Meanwhile, DH, DS, and DG got another good look at, and received a good look by, the bobcat over in the field. By the time they reached the field it was going over a little bridge, and when it heard them it turned to appraise them. They could clearly see its white chest and cheek tufts, and when it turned away again they saw the short tail. It was completely unafraid, as befits its feline nature. When we regrouped we were all very excited, but that was that was it as far as any further sightings, until two weeks ago. Again, I caught some motion out of the corner of my eye, and there padding along the top of a stone wall was the bobcat. DS and I watched it from the windows as DH, in a flurry, hightailed it outside with the camera. Alas, it was gone, but our excitement had returned in full force.
The first order of business was to get the game camera set up. We stationed it so that it had a view of the stone wall, which we knew to be a favorite predator highway before the second bobcat sighting. We even put out an old piece of liver to sweeten the enticement to pose. Alas, we need to make adjustments to the camera’s shutter speed because something with a large, furry behind ate the liver but managed to evade more specific photographic capture. (We think it was the raccoon from the previous post.) We did, however, get some pretty hilarious rodent photobombs:
“I am a noble beast, too!”
“You were perhaps expecting a bobcat? Sucker!”
We also caught a coyote, exiting right (stupid shutter speed):
“Here’s my gorgeous tail! Take that, BOBcat!”
The second order of business was to do some further research about bobcats. One thing we learned is that bobcats pick certain trees to scratch as both a territory marker and also just to keep their claws in shape, so I went out to take a look. I found this:
It’s a bit hard to tell in the photo, but there are vertical grooves in the wood, unlike where a buck would rub his antlers, which tends to leave smooth wood. So, this may be a scratching post, or it may not.
We then moved the camera to another known wildlife crossing point and put out more bait. Again, thanks to shutter speed issues we don’t know who made the bait disappear completely despite a roaring rain storm. We did, however, capture another coyote exiting right, and another indignant deer:
Our lack of sightings was partially made up for, however, by what seems to have been a very loud bobcat sound in the woods the other evening, during DS’s bedtime. Bobcats are most famous for the sound that males make when they’re arguing about breeding rights — people say it sounds like a human screaming — but they also growl and make other assorted noises. What we heard was very much like the sound at 16 seconds in to this recording (click the link, scroll down to the first of two audio files embedded in the page).
So that is where our current attempts to “capture” our new resident stand. Hopefully a rejiggered camera will bring some success and we can get a nice mug shot of a furry bobcat face. Meanwhile, Cookies has something to say about my attempts at making contact with his wild cousin:
“You went bobcat hunting and didn’t bring me along as translator????”