Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1, 2017 - Bobcats!

Happy New Year!  We ended 2016 on a good note, with a nice dump of snow to bring us into winter 2017.

But the highlight at the lake this week were visits from the local bobcat family.  After mentioning last week how the squirrels are hunted by a wide range of predators, we got to experience it live and up close.  One morning at about 7:30 Linda noticed motion on the edge of the lake, and looked in time to see a gorgeous bobcat walking away along the ice with nice fat gray squirrel - which it had just secured from the yard - dangling from its teeth.  Our assumption is that it was bringing it back to its den, or at least a secluded spot to feast on it.  No pictures of it though....   But then about 30 minutes later, along comes another - presumably its mate - and a yearling kit.  This time, I got the picture, as they were more relaxed in their travel.
A stately pose and a watchful eye

Here's my guess as to the events:  The first one was dad, out hunting early and alone to make sure it would get breakfast for the family without the risk of an impatient young-un giving away its stalking of its prey.  Then mom came along with junior, showing him/her the ropes of hunting.

They were interested enough in the area that I expect they smelled the action from dad - there were blood stains in the snow in several places.
The point of the kill?

Although rather grown up, the smaller animal still shows signs of a kitten. 
Mom looks like the real thing
While junior doesn't have the muscular appearance of an adult, still looking like a fluffy kitten

Did you notice how, like the fox, they take advantage of the ski tracks?

Then, two days later, I saw a shadow moving along the lake and we got to witness the action:  one of the bobcats was creeping along the shoreline, stalking the by-now suspicious squirrels eating under the feeders.  The cat remained motionless, watching its prey until they were heads-down scrounging for seeds, and then it quickly took a couple of steps, then froze again.  Finally, when it was at the edge of the cover of blueberry bushes and would have to expose itself, it made its move.

It started for the closest squirrel, but that one was near some bushes and made a move in that direction.  With no hesitation and without missing a beat, the bobcat changed course and sprinted toward the squirrel more in the open.  This squirrel made a dash to the nearest tree;  the cat, triangulating the trajectory rather than going straight at the squirrel, also set a direct course for the tree.  The squirrel got their first and was already 15 feet up when the bobcat hit the tree.  The squirrel was climbing;  the cat was bounding - its first jump took it up about six feet.  A few more leaps and it caught the squirrel maybe 30 feet above the ground, and that was it - curtains for that squirrel.

From the moment the bobcat made its move until the kill was complete took not even two seconds, maybe only one.  Seeing how that cat could leap up a tree was amazing.  And the next day?  Not a squirrel to be seen.  There were as many as seven earlier in the week, but they get hungry and by today we were back up to four.  They best not get complacent as those felines know they have found fertile hunting grounds - this morning there were fresh cat tracks in the new snow.  At this rate the population is dwindling fast, but there will be more food coming, as the survivors will make more squirrels soon enough: they have a litter in late winter as well as one in late summer.  In the mean time, we'll continue to keep them well fed.

As we start a new year I'm curious to see what wonders 2017 will bring to Lake Wicwas.  Can it exceed the action from 2016?  We'll just have to wait and watch.
And we won't be the only ones who will be watching!


  1. Wow! That is so cool! You never cease to amaze me with your Lake Wicwas wildlife photos. It is really exciting to have proof of the elusive bobcats right here on Wicwas. What next, a lynx?! Thanks for sharing.

  2. It is such an incredible place on this world that we share.