Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tracking a Bobcat

A coworker told me about a bobcat she saw. It ran across the road in front of her and into a sagebrush and grass meadow. I've only seen a couple bobcats in my life, so I went over to investigate. It didn't take long to find the tracks. Bobcat tracks are like most cat tracks, with four toes that are curved around the paw. The paw itself has two lobes at the top of it (instead of a single lobe like a dog), but because the rear foot of a bobcat often steps on top of the front foot track, the two lobes can be obscured.

By the stride of the tracks, I can see the bobcat was walking. It also appeared to have been dragging its feet even though the snow was no more than three inches deep. Bobcats are generally solitary and nocturnal, and although they might wander more than 25 miles, they frequently stay in the same two-mile radius.

Here's a closeup of the paw print. It's not very large, only about 2 inches long and 2 inches wide. (It's very common for tracks to appear a little larger when the snow melts.) An adult bobcat weighs between 11 and 20 pounds. They are expert tree climbers.

One of the reasons I wanted to follow the bobcat is to see how it moves. It curved around bushes, and I could just imagine it sniffing around, trying to locate small mammals or birds, its favorite food. Before long, in February, bobcats start mating season. The kittens are born two months later and stay with their mom until autumn.

I followed the tracks until they started getting too far away. It's really fun tracking, and I have to admit there's always a little surge of adrenalin as I follow tracks around a tree, wondering if I've somehow caught up to the animal. So far I never have. But maybe someday.


The Incredible Woody said...

I am so glad that you get excited about stuff like this - I thought I was the only one!! Thanks for the adventure!

Caroline said...

Two months gestation! Wow, don’t we wish ours were that brief. On the other hand, I enjoyed every moment of my two pregnancies. They were magical.

I’m glad you are so adventuresome, too. I’d be worrisome that something was tracking me! It’s hard to be so paranoid….

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