Bobcat in the Brush
The most widespread of all North American wildcats, bobcats can be found across most of the continent in an array of habitats ranging from swamps and prairies, to desert, dense forest, and mountains. Extremely adapatable, they waste no time adjusting to habitat alterations and will prey on reptiles, any manageable mammal, birds, and even the occasional insect. Although fairly abundant throughout much of their range, these predators are extremely elusive and, therefore, rarely encountered.
These felines are highly-sought subjects among many a wildlife photographer, myself included. In fact, over the last few years, I’ve spent untold hours sitting along a likely thoroughfare in the Northeastern Forests (where bobcats are even less frequently-encountered), hoping for a lucky encounter. Alas, such efforts were simply never rewarded, but all was not lost. These efforts, combined with research, helped to slowly broaden my knowledge about bobcats and their behaviour.
There’s something downright alluring about the mysterious nature of these creatures. Perhaps it’s that, perhaps it’s the ancestral connection to some of our favorite pets, or perhaps just their sleek, majestic appearance. Regardless of the incentive, seeing (much less photographing) a wildcat in it’s natural environment is a rare treat!
Ironically, given the unrewarded perseverance in Pennsylvania, my first photogenic bobcat required minimal effort. Just a couple days ago, while traipsing around Tucson’s Sweetwater Wetlands, directly in front of me a bobcat crossed the trail and disappeared amidst the brush on the opposite side of the path. Hoping for another glimpse, I quickly doubled back, switching to a trail that ran parellel to the one on which I walked. Predicting the area where I hoped the bobcat might emerge, I waited a fair distance away. After only a few moments, the cat emerged from the brush much closer than expected. After briefly evaluating me, he / she seemed comfortable enough to have a quick bath in nearly full-view.
Crouched perfectly still so as to not alarm my muse, I watched with rapt attention. Only moderately conerned by my presence, the cat occasionally paused to cast a nonchalant glance in my direction, otherwise diligently finishing it’s obligatory cleaning….cats will be cats, I suppse. After a few moments, it deemed itself fit to continue, meandering down the path, ajacent to some reeds. Keeping my distance, I watched.
After only a short period of time, a strange squawk broke the otherwise (relatively) quiet environment. Emerging from cover, a roadrunner decided to investigate this intruder. The bobcat, seemingly disinterested by the bird’s interruption, continued to work the wetland’s edge, on several occasions, fruitlessly pouncing after invisble targets. The roadrunner persisted, making all the wetland creatures aware of a predator on the prowl.
After a short time, the spectacle was abruptly concluded when a golf cart (operated by an employee of the water reclamation facility) cruised by. Crossing the path one last time, the bobcat disappeared amidst the dense undergrowth. The roadrunner, hopped into the branches of a cottonwood tree, joining it’s apparent mate who had no double been watching with baited breath. My only guess at the bird’s peculiar behaviour was that it may have been guarding a nest in the nearby vicinity.
Yet another spectacular experience offered by the unique and abundant wildlife of the Sonoran Desert!