February 11, 9 am.

Today, I am heading for the small oak woodland area on the west side of Outlet Creek. This is an area where I and my work colleagues have seen bobcats hunting. It does not happen when I want it to, only as a surprise! We have put up a wildlife camcorder in hopes of getting more footage of them. The Bobcat, Lynx rufus, is not a domesticated cat but a wildcat with the attitude of a cougar at times.

One incident, in particular, stands out in my mind. A couple of years ago I was returning home on my bicycle when I happened to hear a strange yowling on the hillside above my head. I stopped and looked up to see a strange sight. There, hanging upside down from a broken down wire fence, was a Bobcat staring and screaming at me as though I was to blame for its misery. I was aghast and after assessing the situation, called my husband to come and help get the poor creature out of the fix it was in. He brought all kinds of tools including a blanket which we used to cover the head of the Bobcat and keep us from getting our eyes scratched out. As we approached, the yowling got louder and louder. As I locked eyes with it, I could feel its deep stress and anger. Then truly I understood why it is known as a “wildcat”! Happily, we did manage to free its leg and it sprang into action, running away as fast as it could. Who knows how long that Bobcat had been hanging upside down on that fence. This experience gave me enormous respect for these cats.

The Bobcat is a large version of a house cat. This has fooled me a few times when I thought I was looking at a domestic cat only to find it was a Bobcat! Their tawny or yellowish brown coat can vary slightly with the seasons, turning a dull gray with faint patterns in the winter and then more reddish in the summer. This is where it’s Latin name comes from, Lynx rufus,  with the rufus meaning reddish. Here are some more facts about them: they weigh from 15 to 29 lbs though I swear I have seen some that look like they are over 30 lbs! Their shoulder height is 17 to 21 inches and their length is 30 to 49 inches. They are found in open woods and in brushy areas, especially favoring riparian area. This is why we have a number of them on the mitigation lands which are crossed with many riparian corridors adjoined by open meadows. The meadows are favorite hunting sites since they are full of meadow voles, gophers, and rabbits. It is a delight to watch them hunting with their focused concentration. On our cam, we have caught them on video stalking a Great Egrets, eating grass, and even spraying the camera.  I scan the captivating riparian border hopefully for a sign of a tawny hunter in the meadow. No luck this time and it is getting late. The return walk is full of thoughts of Bobcats.