Winter Wild: Eastern Bobcat Sighting
One of my favorite things about the start of this quiet season is feeding birds and squirrels on the back terrace. Sipping coffee and watching noisy, red squirrel antics and beautiful birds gathering seed is a great way to start the day. The breakfast crowd varies from year-to-year, and sometimes, I get an unusual morning guest or two. Deer, moose, red fox and black bear are relatively common, but two winters ago, I spotted something a bit more unusual: a bobcat (LynxÂ rufus), skirting the edge of the forest. Once I confirmed the ID by checking its tracks, I waited and waited for a return visit. Bobcat sightings, even in prime habitat such as this â€”wooded, ledgy and remoteâ€” are fairly unusual. The stealthy species is solitary, crepuscular and naturally camouflaged with a gorgeous, white splotched, black spotted, tawny coat. And then there is that short, twitching, bobbed tail. What a sight if you can catch it!
Fast forward a year, and lucky me, the bobcat returned. Late last winter, I noticed a glowing set of eyes peering out from beneath the juniper bushes. A booming gray squirrel population seemed to be drawing the cats closer. And then, one morning, I awoke to the sound of frantic claws and loud scolding from my roof. Curious, I crept downstairs to have a look and there, perched atop the woodpile, was an amazing sight: a beautiful, large bobcat, fully engaged in a squirrel hunt. I knew I’d never reach my camera in time, so I held my breath in wide-eyed wonder and simply enjoyed the show. After a tense few minutes, the standoff between wildcat and gray squirrel ended with a disappointed feline retreating to the forest.
I figured I’d forever missed my opportunity for such a close-up photo, but ever the optimist, I kept the camera close-by for a couple of weeks. Good thinking! Not only did my beautiful neighbor return, but I was treated to a repeat show. Apparently, bird feeders provide a tempting target. I quickly snapped a few photos and then the graceful hunter disappeared for the season; thwarted once again by fast-moving squirrels.
Though infrequently spotted, the elusive eastern bobcat is a relatively common species in Vermont and elsewhere in New England. Swamps, bogs, wooded mountains and ledgy areas within coniferous forests —like my property— are the bobcat’s preferred habitat. Reaching approximately twice the size of an average, domestic house cat, this 15-35 pound predator’s diet consists mainly of small birds and mammals; including mouse, chipmunk, squirrel, cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare. In winter, when snow depth serves to advantage, white tailed deer become an important part of the bobcat’s diet.
Will I be seeing more of this beautiful wildcat? I sure hope so, though the neighborhood squirrels and rabbits will certainly disagree! Have you spotted a bobcat in the wild? Any other unusual wildlife sightings in your garden?
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