New wildlife sighting
Fun with plant names

A bobcat in our woodpile

Young bobcat looks out from the woodpile. Image: ©GardenPhotos.com Looked out the window today, here in the woods in north-east Pennsylvania, as we were starting to get the Christmas Tree decorated  – and there’s a cat with no tail in the garden, right outside the window. Actually, the poor thing has got itself inside the deer fence and is trying to get out. But it’s not a stray house cat… It’s a bobcat, notoriously shy, and a youngster at that. (Click the images to enlarge them.)

Bobcats are American native wild cats, similar to the Scottish wild cat but in fact more closely related to the lynx. In the whole of Pennsylvania there are reckoned to be only 3,100 bobcats. Pennsylvania is about the size of England, by the way: 46,000 square miles/120,000 square kilometers. That’s one bobcat to every 15 square miles - and there’s one in our woodpile. It’s been holed up there all day. We’ve been stringing the lights on the tree and breaking off to watch through binoculars and shoot pictures through the deer fence.
Bobcat takes shelter in the garden woodpile. Image: ©GardenPhotos.com
As its favored habitat of dense brushy forest matured – or was eaten by deer – the bobcat became increasingly rare and the state Game Commission banned hunting and trapping in 1970. Numbers began to increase. In 2000, with numbers in Pennsylvania above 3,000, so the Game Commission again allowed hunting and trapping. Many British readers will be amazed that an animal so rare should be hunted - and the Game Commission came into plenty of flack for its decision - but in this country, where so many people hunt everything from bears to quail, it’s not a simple issue.

Anyway, as we strung the lights on the tree, out in our big woodpile, under the tarp, the bobcat peeped out.  Judy was promptly on the case:
1. She called the Game Commission, which operates an inquiry service even on the Sunday before Christmas – they said they’d check with an expert and call back with some advice.
Judy puts out food for our young garden bobcat in the garden woodpile. Image: ©GardenPhotos.com 2. And, with it being 20F/-6.5C outside, snow swirling round in vast flurries, she broke out the cat food. A bowl of milk, a dish of dried kitten food, and a dish of Friskie’s Ocean Whitefish Dinner.

Bobbie the Bobcat was soon tucking in – but of course the milk and Friskie’s froze solid. Now, of course, in winter, bobcats must be used to eating frozen food but I had a brainwave: Put a housebrick in the oven to warm it up, then use it to keep the food from freezing. And so it was: as darkness fell Bobbie the Bobcat was enjoying a second helping of Friskie’s, and milk, and water – kept in prime condition sitting on a hot housebrick.

The Game Commission called back. The kittens are born in spring, and by this time of year, they said, they should be able to look after themselves, even with snow on the ground. So we need to help Bobbie out from the deer-fenced garden. As darkness fell, I wedged the gate open enough to let Bobbie the Bobcat out, but not enough to let a deer in.

This has been a great treat. Stringing lights on the Christmas Tree one minute, watching a wild bobcat in our woodpile the next.

I wonder if Bobbie the Bobcat will be there in the morning…

Comments

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Ellie Green

It is barbaric, hunting these precious creatures for fun. It only proves that we are not as civilised as we like to think we are.

Martyn Cox

What a beautiful creature and how exciting to see one in your garden.

Graham Rice

And wait till you see the whopping woodpecker on our suet feeder - but I'd better cover one or two horticultural items first...

Ellie Green

How long did Bobbie stay around?

Graham Rice

Just a day and a night, Ellie. Then Bobbie the Bobcat was just prints in the snow...

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