I returned to Sweetwater with my brother and sister-in-law when they visited Tucson two weeks ago. We were lucky enough to run across the bobcats each of the three days we were there.
The first day we saw one kitten eating a coot that mother bobcat had brought for a snack. Momma bobcat was grooming herself at the same time. Both cats were hidden deep in the brush so, although we could see the action, we were unable to get any photographs worth sharing. It was very special to see both cats. After we left, my friend Jeffry saw both bobcats emerge from the brush and he watched momma catch three different cotton rats and bring each one to her kitten. By the third rat, the kitten was not very hungry and played with the rat for quite a while. We missed that action but it prompted us to return the next day around the same time.
We waited near the area we thought the bobcats might be and shortly momma bobcat emerged and began to hunt.
She would walk along the reed ponds, stopping periodically to listen.
At times, she would walk along the edge of a pond. Other times, she would turn and head off in a different direction to another pond. She is a confident and healthy looking bobcat who was very aware of our presence but understood we were not interfering with her life. There were six of us in the group and we all stayed well back and moved slowly keeping up with her.
She was deep in the edge of this pond and very alert to something.
But she finally walked away without any hunting attempt. Whatever was making the noise quit moving, or perhaps there were no sounds to begin with but this had been a very successful hunting spot previously. Throughout all of these photos you can see the bobcat’s typical pointed ears, her facial ruff (the hairs on the side of her cheeks), those huge paws, and her very big haunches (the better to leap with). And in other shots, you can see her ‘bobbed’ tail that gives the species their name.
More searching. Her ears are pointed forward to better catch any sounds.
And a pounce!
But to no avail. It’s not the easiest to find food in the wild.
This large tree trunk made the bobcat look much smaller than she did when she was out in the open. Look at the size of those paws.
The bobcat walked by us very closely. I wonder if she was thinking “If I don’t look at the people, maybe they won’t look at me!” Her calm demeanor actually tells me that she has observed bird-watchers and nature lovers daily for her entire life and she understands our behavior. She does not see us as a threat as long as we give her space and respect her. She is very focused on her work here and she has a job to do, taking care of her little one.
This is the walk of a strong and confident animal.
Suddenly, the cat saw a group of people round the corner in the path ahead of her. The group had a dog on a leash. Sweetwater has many signs stating “No Dogs Allowed”. Although the dog was not acting up, the cat clearly understood this was a predator and a clear threat (Cats vs. Dogs). The bobcat stopped immediately, looked at the dog and the group, and turned suddenly and walked/ran very quickly in the opposite direction. She rushed past us in very close proximity and only stopped once she was a short way from us. She stopped to look back.
And then disappeared into the brush. We were certain she returned to her kitten on alert and would not resume hunting until much later. We also left to give the bobcat her space.
We did return to Sweetwater the following day and were able to see momma bobcat with her kitten. I’ll share those photos in the next email.
Afterwards I wrote to Sweetwater to ask about their policy. Below is their response: