Bobcat – An Elusive Hunter

One morning back in 2013, I spotted a bobcat at the very edge of the woods just south of the house. It was moving quickly and heading north through the grasses. This was the year Daisy deer delivered her first babies – a doe and a buck. Alarmed at the close proximity of the bobcat to where I knew Daisy usually bedded down her fawns, I jumped in the buggy to chase off the predator. I never did find the cat, and headed back to the house after driving around the area, hoping I had at least sent it away to the deeper woods. But an hour later, Daisy showed up battered and clawed, exhausted from a battle. Her little buck fawn disappeared that day, and I could only imagine that the bobcat was responsible. I wrote about this in, “What I Imagine to be a Brave Fight“.

Daisy was exhausted when she returned from battle. I cleaned up a lot of blood spatters all over her head and body.
Just after the battle, Daisy bedded down next to her doe fawn, Spirit, and rested only an hour before going out to look for her little buck. We never saw him again after that day.
This was how I found Daisy just after the battle. Patches of hair were missing and lots of claw marks, puncture wounds and scratches covered her head and body. A tear to her left ear left a notch that, to this day, helps us identify her from other deer.
Just ten days after Daisy’s suspected battle with a bobcat, her wounds were healing nicely. She kept her remaining fawn, Spirit, close to her at all times.

As much as I have roamed these woodlands, the old river channel and nearby river, I have never again spotted a bobcat. Due to their elusive nature and nocturnal hunting habits, it’s not likely I may ever spot one again. But in the last year, our game cameras captured photos of one traveling along the west end of the property. The areas along the river and old river channel provide a good water and food source for all sorts of wildlife. And like most predators, bobcat are opportunists and have learned to acclimate to living near humans and finding various food sources in residential areas. The city meter-reader has twice mentioned seeing a bobcat venture into the neighborhood east of here via the alley just south of our home.

 

The most surprising observation FD and I made while looking over game camera video footage, was a bobcat walking through the fawn “nursery” area of the old river channel, with a lactating doe moving lateral at about the same pace and keeping watch on the bobcat. I was surprised to find a deer anywhere near the bobcat since bobcats are capable of killing a mature deer, though their prey is generally a smaller mammal, bird, or rodent. But I also know does tend to patrol their territorial area and, especially during their fawns first month or two, are likely to try to lead a predator away or, as in Daisy deer’s case, go to battle.

I find myself thankful for today’s game camera technology. For us, the cameras are the eyes of the woodlands, helping us to observe and learn about the habits of wildlife, without disturbing the routine of everyday life. And in the case of the elusive bobcat, we see a critter we might otherwise never know existed so near our home.

© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


33 thoughts on “Bobcat – An Elusive Hunter

  1. That’s both awesome and scary… to actually get to see a bobcat, but yet they can be dangerous. About a week ago, my husband opened the blinds and spotted a coyote walking along our back yard fence. We know they’re here, and suspect they are responsible for the disappearance of some fawns. Sometimes it’s a hard part of life to accept. I have a question: when you jumped in the buggy to go look for the bobcat, did you take a weapon with you? (I hope so)

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    1. I only carry a tazer and mace in the buggy. Even while hiking, it’s cumbersome to carry anything heavier than those items. I really don’t fear much for myself with bobcats or coyotes since they’re not as great a threat to humans, but I do watch for wild hogs. There have been spottings of mountain lions too in this county, and that I would be fearful of. But in the buggy I don’t worry.

      We see a lot of coyotes on game cameras. I do not write much about those. I do not like them, and most farmers do not like them either. We see them up here near the house where they likely try to get to the chickens, or perhaps venture into town.

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  2. Game cameras are great and technology is simple wonderful in our modern age. But as you know and I know, nature is cruel and that is how a healthy eco system remains in balance. Truthfully, I don’t like the laws of nature.

    In my yard of one acre, in the past, I routinely fed the wild birds, until about three years ago I discovered a pair of copper hawks living and raising young in my general area. Since then I only provide daily fresh water but no longer put food in the feeders for the wild birds. My son thinks I am nuts because I don’t feed the birds anymore. His rationale is, “the hawks have to eat too.” My rationale is, “why make it easy for the hawks?”

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    1. You’ve said a lot here that I completely agree with. I do not like how nature works, and it seems barbaric to me. Humans are predators as well. We make choices about what population to cull as we see fit – usually from studies on populations so there isn’t over-population causing starvation and disease in areas, or as a threat to livestock. With every decision we make, we must be cognizant of the consequences. That can be difficult. Rarely do people agree on how we should treat situations with wildlife.

      I do put seed in one bird feeder in winter. It’s placed under a large tree surrounded by smaller saplings so it’s almost impossible for a kill – too much structure in the way. However, at the wildlife tub down below the slope, I find more evidence of kills down there, even though it too is covered by a canopy of trees. But I often see kill evidence at the slough and old river channel too. I have found bones alongside the sloped edges of the river also. Any place wildlife goes to find hydration and food, can be a target area of predators.

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      1. Lori, you are so correct. Humans are at the top of the food chain and we kill or have some one kill animals for us. We are probably the greatest consumers of meat. However, it became a moral and personal choice for me when I decided to become a vegetarian more than 20 years ago. For the past 3-4 years I am mostly vegan. Of course, animals have no choice about what they can eat. Prey is food and vice versa.

        I imagine that you feel sad each time you find the bones of an animal. I know that I do. I see, in my yard, the feathers of birds, and I always get a bit sad knowing that the bared owl or the Cooper’s hawk caught one of “my birds.”

        For many years, I was hanging the bird feeder under thick branches until I stopped with the presence of the hawk. After reading where you put your feeder, I am going to place the feeder in the thick part of a possum haw holly. And I’ll see if that deters the hawk.

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    1. Thank you, Paulette. I am not a fan of the bobcat or the coyote. My work and attachment to wildlife lower on the food chain makes me quite protective of the area. We have not seen many skunks, opossums, armadillos and especially rabbits in years. Even the foxes were not seen here this year. That tells me the bobcat and coyotes are cleaning out the area. I am so thankful for the game cameras. At least we don’t have to wonder what’s happened. We can see the perpetrators.

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  3. It’s interesting that you mention the river and the old channel as bobcat territory. The first time I found prints, it was on a stretch of brushy land bordering the intracoastal waterway, well away from any populated area. I was with a friend who didn’t know any more about prints than I did, but we knew whatever had made them wasn’t a canine. They were big, deep, and fresh: barely drying around the edges. We took another look around and decided maybe it was time to find a different spot to explore.

    Bobcats aren’t exactly rare here. I’ve found prints at the Brazoria wildlife refuge, and even in a nature center only a mile or so from my place. There are winding bayous and mud flats aplenty, and it’s filled with raccoons, armadillos, possums, and even deer, so the hunting would be good. Here are some stills from a game cam owned by a guy with property down by the wildlife preserve I visit so frequently.

    I know how easy it is to get hooked on nest cams and game cams. I imagine you’ve spent qutie a few hours just keeping an eye on the land — as interesting as your photos are for me, they must be even more so for you.

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    1. When FD was a young boy and he and his friends roamed this area of the river, bobcats were common. I think they have probably always been here, but due to their reclusive nature we just don’t notice them. This past year I haven’t taken to hiking as I did in the past, so I have relied heavily on game cameras to get a better look at the places I do not frequent like I used to. We are hoping to purchase a few more cameras so that we can also watch the leased property.

      I really enjoyed the link you sent. When I am doing research on wildlife – especially White-tail deer, it’s usually hunters who have the best information and photography (even if it isn’t great quality). Next to game cameras, they are the observers of nature. They know things that cannot be gotten from studies and labs.

      Tracking is another fascinating aspect of investigating and exploring surroundings. FD is really good with tracking – looking for those little details about impression, checking the gait and length of step, claws as opposed to nails – I learn a lot from hiking with him. I know scat tells us a lot too about the eating habits and health of an animal, even determining the sex is possible!

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    1. Thanks for the link. The saying sort of gives a visual of what it means, but the link was very interesting. Have you ever managed to photograph a kill in nature, or even the remains following a kill? I’ve often hoped to find vultures cleaning up a carcass here on the place, but have never had the fortune. Last week coming home from the Lawton area, I found five vultures feasting on something in the ditch along the road, but they flew off as I approached. All I had was my iPhone and it wouldn’t have done justice if I had waited for them to circle back around.

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      1. Yes, I have. Just last month I photographed several vultures eating the smelly carcass of a possum. I got a few good pictures thanks to a telephoto lens that let me keep my distance but zoom way in. I debated whether to show one of those pictures on my blog but so far have not. I’m afraid at least some and probably even most readers would find it pretty gross. I thought of posting the picture very small so that the image wouldn’t be discernible unless someone who wanted to see the details clicked to enlarge the photo.

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        1. I’ve learned that posting disturbing or what other’s consider gross images doesn’t go over very well. I do not like that I feel I cannot always post about the things that are important to me or interesting to me. But, I do not like taking a beating over it either – negativity from readers bothers me more.

          As for vultures, they are the “cleansers of the earth” in my eyes and remind me to “glide and soar and leave my carcasses of worry and troubles behind”.

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    1. You really should set yours up again! For FD and me, it’s very interesting and entertaining. Mostly we have the cameras to watch the deer, but it now helps us to understand the ecosystem here. Hopefully, we can purchase a few more to keep watch on the leased acres too. Game cameras are not cheap – at least not the ones that take clear images and good video quality.

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  4. Those animal cams. To see one moving without knowing it is observed – rare – would be cool except we know the other residents. A rare look into a world we think we know, but don’t really.
    Great images. Doesn’t hurt to spread human scent around as a little assist and deterrent.

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    1. Ha ha!! You know me well… if I’m out working in the orchard or out on the west end or leased property, you can bet I “mark” the area. This can be done any number of ways of course. Wildlife has such amazing scent capability. The armadillo is my favorite to observe. Their eyesight is terrible, but if I venture very close, even if the wind is in my favor, they’ll rise up and sniff in the air. It never takes long for them to decide danger is present, and they bound away quickly. I know every step I take on the soil leaves my scent. Even if I’m wearing camo, I can still easily be detected. My cool weather jacket and pants are supposed to hide my human scent, but I think there is no way to hide everything.

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  5. Bobcats are common here. That is why Los Gatos is named after them. They do not eat deer here. There are plenty of rodents, rabbits and quail for them. They must get a small deer every once in a while, but I have never hear about it. Bobcats came through the garden when Timmy was here, and he just watched them come and go.

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    1. Coyotes are the biggest threat to deer here, especially fawns. I do love that the cameras give us a more accurate view of what comes and goes in this area. As much as I’m out and about, I know I don’t begin to think I know what all travels through our area.

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      1. We all know that mountain lions live here, but very few people have ever seen one. I have seen only two. It sort of makes me wonder what they are up to out there. If you ever saw ‘Finding Bigfoot’, one of the episodes was done here in our neighborhood. They actually wanted to find one who supposedly lived at my home. If mountain lions can be as elusive at they are, so can Sasquatch . . . . although I seriously doubt that they live in my neighborhood!

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  6. Sad pictures of Daisy, but impressive too. She gave it her all. And you understand that nature thrives by conflict. I don’t like to be confronted with that. I hope bobcats have a caring side too as they struggle to survive and reproduce. And fortunately deer seem to have built-in healing process. I am told that we do too, but sometimes it’s pretty slow.

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    1. “Nature thrives by conflict”. I like that – it’s true and to the point. I believe you are correct in that bobcats probably do have a nurturing side – how could they not when they reproduce and raise young? I have observed both conflict and nurturing in many species of wildlife here. And I have seen some horrible wounds and battle scars that heal quickly, and even if the animal suffers a handicap, they still managed to carry on. And then again, some do not survive. The struggle of life is like that for all of us, I suppose.

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