Bobcat Betrothals, continued

S.C.Morse
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Above left: Bobcats rely on cliffs for security, warmth, dating, and birthing.

Above right: In the winter especially, bobcats make great use of wetland edge for hunting.

 

Farther along, the tom had created a “scrape.” Often under a protective rock overhang, bobcats of both sexes will use their hind feet to scratch the ground and create a pile of absorbent leaves, evergreen needles, soil, and sometimes snow.

They anoint the pile with secretions from glands located between the toes, and sometimes feces and urine. The tom’s scratch was a sort of personal ad, conveying his identity, location in time and space, and social and sexual status. Three hours and nearly four miles after I started, I decided to backtrack an older set of female tracks, hoping they would lead me to where I’d begun.

This cat’s smaller feet, shorter strides, and relatively infrequent scent-marking provided clues regarding her gender, but her behaviors were the most revealing. She was more focused on hunting than reproduction, slinking from cover to cover, tree to stump to rock. In contrast to the tom’s destination-driven, swaggering trail, the female was cryptic and careful.

Her modus operandi was to carefully conserve energy by gracefully walking above the deep snow, along fallen logs and skinny branches. No date for these two cats, but there’s always another day. And their respective journeys remind us: Like so many species in our winter woods, the bobcat is quintessentially wild, yet wonderfully near us. Wild animals travel, nap, hunt, and find mates in a vast matrix of habitats that must be conserved if they are to survive. Walk along a backtrail for the day, and you’ll get the picture – it’s the big picture.

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