Meeting a Familiar Bobcat

By Dan Weisz

I hadn’t been to Sweetwater Wetlands much recently.  With the heat of the summer and the early sunrises, it has not been on my “places to visit” list for a while.  With the change of weather, I thought it would be nice to visit once again and my wife and I headed out there. And near the end of our walk, we were treated to a special sight: a Bobcat!!!  We turned a corner and saw a group of people standing in the distance.  It seemed odd at first, but then I realized they were stopped for a reason and as I scanned the trail up ahead, I saw the Bobcat resting peacefully on the path, watching the reeds.  It wasn’t actively hunting, but it wasn’t napping either.

Eventually, the bobcat sat up, looked at the people behind it, looked towards us and then made a decision.

The cat headed our way.  Here it was perhaps 20 yards or more away, but the camera brings it much closer.  You can see that both of its ears are pointed in our direction.  Bobcats have excellent hearing that they use for hunting and they can move each ear separately from the other.  In each of today’s pictures, look at the cat’s ears to see where it is paying attention.

As it walked in our direction, it looked and wandered in more of a zig-zag pattern, checking out the sounds and sights on both sides of the path.  See how its ears are not directed to us but to each side of the bobcat? Bobcats have large paws!

As it continued walking forward it would check out both sides of the path.  This bobcat appears to be one of last year’s kittens of the same ‘mother’ cat that has lived in this area and raised kittens for several years now. 

The bobcat walked right by us and continued on its way.  We followed at a respectful distance for a while.  It paused again and sat for a while. It did not seem to be showing hunting behavior but it was alert.  Occasionally, it would look over its shoulder at me.  The color pattern on this bobcat is very pretty.  A bobcat’s short (or bobbed) tail may be as long as one foot, but it is usually shorter.

And then it began to prowl again. Notice how the bobcat’s rear legs are much larger and muscular than its front legs.  Bobcats pounce on their prey and their rear legs serve that purpose.

Eventually, the bobcat worked her way into some dense brush.  She was not hunting though.  She was just looking for a safe place to nap.  We left her at that point happy to have spent time shadowing her.

Generally, bobcats are more active hunting in the hours around dawn and dusk.  But in the colder weather, their prey is less active at night so bobcat hunting schedule changes and the cats are more active during the day.  This is another subtle sign of the change of seasons.  And now that it is cooler, I hope to spot the bobcat more often over the next few months. Wish me luck! 

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