March 28, 2011

Lynx Rufus

from Nat Geo (photo: Norbert Rosing)
When I opened the bedroom shades this morning, there she was, sauntering through my back garden, about 50 feet from my window.  Everything is brown and mottled out there in these last weeks of cold and dormancy, and she is brown and spotted too, but there was no hiding her.

Our bobcat is back.

I wrote about her in one of my first blog posts in winter 2010.

Although the wildlife sites tell us bobcats are elusive and nocturnal, ours is not.  She hunts in the middle of a sunny day, and ambles around our garden in broad daylight.

We watched in fascination last winter as she made her pounces capturing mice in the snowy meadow.  It's a spectacle: creep, creep, creep .... stalk, wait with hunched shoulders and laser focused eyes, and then a swift arching leap three feet in the air to deliver the deathblow.  It looks like an acrobatic stunt.

We watched her do this four times, and she was successful twice.  After a successful kill, she simply crouched where she had landed and ate her lunch.
last winter from my dining room window

The first time I saw the bobcat in our yard it was 6 p.m. on a summer evening several years ago, and she sauntered (yes, that's the only word I can use; it's a hip swaying slow liquid stroll) through the garden with a giant rabbit dangling from her mouth.  I was on the deck, about 30 feet away.  She took no notice of me.  Or she noticed, but was too self satisfied to acknowledge me.... as if to say "I have dinner plans tonight and you don't."

I have seen her several times since.  We don't know if it's a female, and haven't seen it with cubs.  Females are a little smaller than males.  The National Geographic site shows an illustration of a bobcat's relative size to a human.  Our bobcat looks smallish, so we decided it's a female.

Lynx rufus (or Felis rufus) is smaller than the Canada lynx, but twice as big as a house cat, and three times as big as the skinny Siamese felines who prowl around inside our house pouncing on their food dishes.  The bobcat is solitary, and we have only ever seen ours alone, patrolling by herself.

She owns a territory of about 5 square miles, so we don't see her often, as she covers other parts of her range.  Bobcats actually do well in urban edge environments, as long as there is prey, and we have a rich menu of voles and mice and rabbits in our gardens. They will hunt fawns too, and can bring down an adult deer, but I suspect that is rare, although deer are certainly on offer here too, and I'd appreciate any efforts by the bobcat to keep them in check.  Bobcats have no natural predators.

note the bobbed tail, practically nonexistent

I didn't get a picture this morning of our Lynx rufus, so I'm posting the photos from January of 2010.

This morning, when I raised the shades and saw her, I just watched rather than rush to find the camera.  There is something arresting about seeing a predator so close.  She's no threat to me or our indoor housecats, but her wildness, her stealth, the way she absolutely owns my garden, is heart stopping.


23 comments:

  1. Laurrie, how wonderful that you have this resident in your garden! I would take that as a good sign that you've created an environment that makes her feel at home. Bravo.

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  2. The bobcats in our area are moving too. The guards that work 2nd shift see them most often in the area where we bird. These are fantastic photos. I think you are mightly blessed to have a bobcat to keep down the rabbit population.

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  3. Hopefully she will eat some of your voles! I've seen one here, on a cloudy day. That one wasn't going to stick around for a photo op. lol My cat Prissy does that very same manuver when she hunts. It's like she's on magic springs.

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  4. Oh my isn't that exciting and chilling too - around here coyotes are frequently seen around dusk, and are apparently fearless, staring you right in the eye.

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  5. I'm sooo jealous. It must be great fun to watch your visitor.

    Having worked with bobcats I can tell you that you can't assume that small means female. Some subspecies of bobcat are smaller than what Nat. Geo. describes.

    Now for my soapbox.

    If you ever have a mouse or rat problem in your house DO NOT USE rodenticides (poisons). A big problem bobcats are having in Southern California (where I worked with them) is secondary rat poisoning. The rodents eat the poison, the bobcats find the poisoned mice and rats easier to catch and when they eat them they also eat the poison. Not good. (also risky for your housecats, same issue)

    Here endith the pontificating from the soap box.

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  6. we have bobcats in southern california and they live in the open space around laguna beach. but they sure aren't as big as this guy! how cool! and how lucky you are to get to watch him/her in action!

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  7. You are so lucky to have an efficient mouser. Better than eating chickens. What a beautiful cat and I am sure very fascinating to watch.

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  8. Marguerite, this cat surely does seem to feel at home in my gardens.

    Lisa, I could use more than one bobcat -- there are still way too many rabbits here!

    Sweetbay, it is so funny to see the common traits that housecats and wild predator cats have in common!

    Cyndy, I hope your coyotes do some rodent control too... they must hunt rabbits and voles.

    Diana, I am with you on your soapbox. Voles plague me, but I know poisoning them will hurt the hawks and cats and predators I want. So I try spring traps with peanut butter, peppermint oil on their trails, etc. (all ineffective by the way). I need more rodent hunters than one bobcat in my yard!

    Laguna Dirt, it's great that these cats are thriving in so many states, especially in heavily populated areas. We truly are lucky to see them.

    Donna, she really is beautiful to watch... it's that swaggering slow predator saunter.

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  9. What a treat to see her scouting in your garden. I love these pictures even if they are from last year.

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  10. Thanks for sharing your bobcat! How special that your garden is part of this wild creature's habitat. My own garden is tucked away and one would think it is far out in the country, but in reality on all sides suburbia is only a short walk through the woods. I have occasionally see foxes, but most of the wildlife in my garden has to come in on wings.

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  11. I want a rodent catcher just like the one you have. How Cool!

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  12. Amazing!!! I have never seen a bobcat except in the zoo! However, since one of my dogs is only 14 lbs, I'd rather she visit your backyard than mine. Your garden is a special place for her to decide it's "hers". How totally cool!!

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  13. Wow! What an interesting visitor. You managed to get great pictures of her too.
    It is a bonus that she is keeping the mice population down. I bet she even deters the deer from coming round and munching away on your garden. Are you sure she wouldn't take issue with your cat though if they were to cross paths?

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  14. Layanee, thanks! I do like to see her scouting around.

    Deborah, I am also in suburbia, in a development, very close to other houses and roads, despite what the meadow pictures show. That's why it's so amazing to see this kind of wildlife.

    Joene, I just wish there was more than one bobcat --- I have so many destructive rodents!

    TS, I'd be worried for your little 14 pounder out there with this hunter around!

    Jennifer, I can't imagine our scaredy little housecats anywhere near this bobcat.

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  15. She is beautiful, Laurrie! These photos are amazing, but I'm glad this time you were able to just sit and enjoy watching her. I've never seen a bobcat around here; we do have lots of coyotes, however. I make sure our cats don't prowl too far and are inside at night.

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  16. Wow, what a wonderful sight in the garden! I have never seen a bobcat, and I would feel privileged to have one sharing my garden (not to mention that I wouldn't mind a reduction to the mouse population). -Jean

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  17. Rose, bobcats and coyotes must not share territory. Others have said they have coyotes but have never seen bobcats. I know there are coyotes in Connecticut, and I saw them in the town I lived in before, but not here where the bobcat prowls.

    Jean, thanks. I do feel kind of privileged that the bobcat feels so at home in my yard!

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  18. Hi Laurrie: Fantastic, great photos. Lucky you, we have not seen a bobcat here. Everything else but no Bob cats.

    Have a great day,
    John

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  19. John, thanks for stopping by and admiring our wildlife!

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  20. Wow! I too wouldn't be able to pull myself away from the window! Nature is just so fascinating and to see something with that prowess would just be heart stopping. Thanks for sharing.

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  21. Cat, I did watch her the whole time from the window until she was out of sight. Couldn't tear myself away!

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  22. We have one in our neighborhood in Easton too -
    I just have never been fast enough to get a picture (having a loudmouth dog doesn't help!)

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  23. Shira, It's good to know bobcats are thriving all throughout Connecticut.

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