Lathrop’s Bobcat(s)

Last night, at dusk, Sharon and I saw the bobcat again behind our house on Huckleberry Lane. This picture was taken by resident Chuck Gillies in his back yard near our home.

About twice the size of a house cat, our bobcat walked out from the wetland shrubs, sprayed and rubbed a few trees to mark its territory, walked onto the grassy swale, and very quietly lay down. We thought, Oh, it’s taking a rest. But no, it was hunting–lying still, waiting for all those bunnies to think they were safe.

Pretty soon, it rose into a crouch, slowly gliding forward, ears cocked, muscles rolling under the spotted coat, paws laid down ever so softly, totally intent on its supper. Nocturnal, it was just beginning its night’s hunt.

Bobcat scat on snow in wetland behind Huckleberry Lane. Not pointy end. Photo by Sharon Grace, winter 2014.
Bobcat scat on snow in wetland behind Huckleberry Lane. Note pointy end. Photo by Sharon Grace, winter 2014.

It was hard to tell who this bobcat was. If it was mama, then she may have had mostly-grown kits nearby. Born in early spring, they’ve been learning to hunt since August. She would be the only female in her 5-acre territory, and she’ll defend it even against her own kits, driving the poor children out of her acres around Christmas time, when they are under a year old.

If it was papa, then he was a bit bigger–maybe up to 28 pounds– and his, ahem, area of activity could overlap the territories of several females.

Bobcats eat mostly rabbits (and your cat or dog if you leave it out). They don’t stalk people, and will retreat from our approach, so walking our land you are quite safe from bobcat attack. However, they are vigorous and skillful hunters, and have been known to kill an adult deer in winter, when things get tough. It would be as though you or I killed a buffalo by ourselves.

And by themselves they are. Except for the kits and the late-winter breeding, bobcats are solitary. In early times, they were hunted for their fur, but populations have rebounded, until today there are about a million of them in the U.S. So our bobcat is literally one in a million! We treasure her or him, and we pledge to protect the native plants, forests, wetland, and fields that nurture this fierce and beautiful fellow Lathrop resident.

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