Bobcats live throughout most of North America. This medium sized (30-40lb) cat, Lynx rufus, is thriving and well here in The Pacific Northwest. It is the smaller of our two apex predator cast native to this region, and I’m so thankful Puma concolor, has not shown a presence at Leafhopper Farm, that trail cams and personal vigilance have not spotted. The bobcat is common around the farm, and has predated a few sheep and one goat in its tenure here. Our resident male is impressive, and spends most of his time trolling the back pasture for a chance at livestock or wild deer, whichever happens to find its self in the path of this lethal killer.
To apease this predator, and encourage the animal to stay in the back field, leftover meat and bone scraps are dropped in front of trail cams so the farm is informed about who comes to the table and how often. Hopefully this banquet in the back field keeps the cat and coyotes fed while the livestock rests safely in the barn. There is also a resident female that has also been filmed on the property, though she has not been filmed this year yet.
What’s most exciting about the bobcat’s most recent visit, is all the visible sign he left for us to follow and study. Above and below you see the original spot where a blacktail deer carcass was left by the trail cam. Grass was torn from the ground and placed over the kill by the cat. It is common for big cats to “cash” a fresh food source for later. That way, a large meal can spread out over a few days, with less risk of other scavengers finding the free meal. A coyote did feed on the site at least once, but ravens left the kill alone after the cat began covering it.
The cat was nervous about where the deer was laying out in the middle of the field. Usually, a cat will move his snack pack out of view for safer enjoyment of the meal. Moving slowly, the bobcat pulled the carcass across the field, making stops to re-cash the site for more eating at a later time. He pulled grass over the site right in the middle of my medicine wheel, pulling rocks onto the meat as well. It is interesting to note that the spiritual symbols associated with bobcat are silence and secrets. It also reaches a most active time in late winter, which is now. The male is traveling through to mate, and he’s hungry.
Again, the big male cat dragged the carcass along towards the woods. He ate and cashed again. If you look closely, you’ll see where the grass has a bit of a combed look. Bobcat claws were literally pulling through the tufts of stems to cover the meat.
Here I’ve put my hat down to mark the spot more clearly. There was also a lot of compressed sign, like lays where the cat was on his stomach gorging himself. In the wild, a meal can be lost to other scavengers quickly, so eating on the run is most important. This male bobcat is not top predator, and even a coyote could give him a run for his money if it was hungry enough. Luckily in this arrangement, everyone got a bite and no direct conflict was documented.
To fight in the wild is a lot of risk. If a predator is injured, it cannot hunt, usually becoming emaciated and then slowly starving to death. Cats rely on ambush, surprising their prey to avoid retaliation. Coyotes are aggressive, chasing down prey and attacking it head on at times. This gives the canine an advantage over the reclusive cat, though the bobcat’s claws and teeth are no less lethal. Lynx rufus is secretive to survive. He hides himself, his food, and his movement to avoid confrontation. It’s so rare to find this level of sign in one place.
See if you can find the carcass laying out in the field below. It was not cashed this time, but left in the open for even the ravens to see.
Every chunk of meat has been cleaned off this carcass. There are teeth and claw marks all over the bones, this camera couldn’t catch the detail, but it’s there. Many of the boned have been chewed down, most likely the work of coyote. Other more subtle scrapes show close together fangs and pin prick punctures to the surface of the bone. That’s our cat, and he cleaned up on this free meal. Though bobcats are not known as scavengers, when it’s fresh and dead, just laying there in the open, eat while you can. We’re very excited about sharing space with this noble creature, and hope to remain close, but not too close, to this beautiful wild animal.