Monday, August 07, 2017

Bobcats!

Bobcat kittens - Image by Mark Musselman
While on patrol for destructive wild pigs on the east side of the swamp nearly opposite the Francis Beidler Forest nature center, I walked up on a female bobcat and her three kittens tucked inside a standing hollow tree.

Wild pigs numbers were greatly diminished after the extreme high water resulting from the 1000-year rain event in October 2015 and Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. However, since the water level in the swamp has dropped, wild pigs have been rooting up every foot of exposed moist soil and reproducing and reproducing. Therefore, I was patrolling to survey the damage and was prepared to shoot any pigs that showed themselves in the open. Unfortunately, the damage was extensive and no pigs were spotted.

I was making a less-than-stealthy march through the dwarf palmettos on the way back to the truck, when a reddish-haired mammal began slinking away in front of me. It was obviously a mammal, but looked initially like a woodchuck low to the ground and somewhat flattened around the edges. It was not a woodchuck, as they are not in this area and the body proportions were wrong. The animal in question was longer. I thought maybe a red fox due to the hair color, but there was no tail. Even when the animal stopped, turned broadside to me and stared, I remained unconvinced it was a bobcat. Cat, definitely, but the hair was so reddish. It was too big to be a domestic cat, but a bobcat would not stand 20 meters from me and stare...unless there was something she really wanted to protect. Just as I began to scan the area for a possible den site, the sounds of young kittens began emanating from the base of the tree to my right. Bending forward and peering around the side of the tree, I could see it was hollow and occupied by three kittens.

Before mom decided to return and possibly fight for her offspring, I captured the short video linked below. I made an even noisier retreat to ensure the female bobcat knew that I was gone and it was safe to return to her kittens.

Video