Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bobcat's visit raises natural question

Bobcat's visit raises natural question

 

Sherry Boas | Simply Living

November 4, 2007

 

I went outside to feed the birds today and saw a bobcat.

 

He (or she) was about 200 feet away, resting on the ground in front of the compost pile.

 

Compost piles are wildlife magnets. The odiferous porridge of kitchen wastes attracts mammals large and small. I've watched foxes and raccoons explore these bins of human detritus, but this was the first time a bobcat showed interest in the family dumping ground for avocado pits, eggshells, burnt rice and apple cores.

 

The bobcat, a tawny mass of cropped fur and pointy ears, looked comfortable. Like an oversized house cat who had just polished off a hearty meal, he rested contentedly on the matted grass. We eyed each other from afar. I squatted low, to appear less threatening. The cat simply stared in my direction, tufted ears at full attention, assessing the menace.

 

Reluctant to miss anything, but eager to immortalize this special moment, I rose slowly and slipped back into the house. Unfortunately, my camera wasn't hanging on the hook next to the kitchen door as I assumed it would be.

 

Not wanting to waste precious time searching the house, I eased back outside. By then, the bobcat had risen, but remained in the same place.

 

The feral feline must have realized (correctly) that I was harmless, because he proceeded to stretch with a long, leisurely gee-I-wish-you-hadn't-disturbed-me arch of the back. Standing my ground, I watched in awe.

 

Moments later, the object of my attention ambled off toward a more sheltered environ. There was nothing frantic or fearful about his movements. His graceful gait was slow and steady. I watched as he rounded the corner, disappearing from sight. Wanting more, I followed in his wake, moving as quietly as my bare feet would allow.

 

As I approached, I noticed the bobcat had paused beneath the overhanging branches of a nearby mulberry tree. The low-hanging limbs of the leafy fruit tree provided a tangled web that blended perfectly with his reddish-brown fur. When I rounded the corner, the cat caught sight of me. He responded by moving toward the woods. My eyes followed his trail for an instant before he vanished into the brambly undergrowth.

 

My one-on-one moment with nature was over. My only photographs were mental snapshots of the bobcat's movements. I rushed back inside, eager to share my experience with Ralph and Toby.

 

Although this was the first time I've seen a bobcat by the compost pile, it was not my first sighting. On at least a half dozen occasions, I've chanced upon bobcats on the property. Each encounter has been spectacular, a cherished gift. But these experiences concern me, too. I'm not scared for myself or for the safety of others, but for the bobcats themselves. Every peek into the waning wilderness reminds me of what we have to lose.

 

So much untamed land has already been developed. What will happen to the bobcats, bears, deer, foxes and coyotes when people eliminate even more woods to make way for shopping centers, residential communities and industrial complexes?

 

The Florida panther is endangered. According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), only about 100 of these magnificent mammals remain in the wild. About a million bobcats roam throughout North America. In Florida, they are neither endangered nor threatened. But how long can that last?

 

Bobcats are solitary hunters. A male needs about 4,900 acres of field and forest in order to supply its carnivorous needs. A female needs 2,900 acres. That's so much land. While these dog-size consumers of rats, mice, birds and rabbits can adapt to eating out of compost piles, foraging through trash cans and licking the remains of pet food bowls, it's unlikely suburban residents will welcome their arrival to the neighborhood. Any nondomesticated creature that wanders into suburbia is more apt to arouse panic than peaceful observation and gratitude.

 

That's not how I feel. I'm grateful for any chance to see a wild animal -- large or small, on foot, wing or water.

 

I went out to feed the birds today and wound up feeding my own insatiable appetite for wildlife encounters. The few minutes the bobcat and I shared made an impression that will last for years. Will moments like this continue to happen? I don't know, but I hope they will. I hope time is gentle to bobcats and the many other creatures whose fate relies heavily on the course of human actions.

 

 

Sherry Boas can be reached at simplyliving@beautifulbamboo.com.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/columnists/orl-orsimply0407nov04,0,1471984.column

 

Carole’s letter to Sherry Boas

 

Dear Sherry,

 

Your bobcat article was just beautiful!  As someone who has been rehabbing and releasing the bobcats who have their run ins with man for the past 28 years, I can tell you that articles like yours will decide the future of these amazing cats.  We get calls all the time from people who have seen a bobcat and want us to remove the animal.  Every call is an education, like your story, about why these cats are so necessary to the environment, how they protect our crops from vermin and what great neighbors they make if we just let them do their thing. 

 

The bobcat’s comfort in their role is what you saw demonstrated in the cat’s attitude, as he eyed you to make sure you understood his part and then casually strolled out of sight before you could get too close.  They will always choose to avoid humans and our obnoxious pets and children if given a chance.  Your compost pile is no doubt a rat attractant and that would be why the cat was looking satiated by the heap.  Think of the money that could be saved on pest control if people just understood what a symbiotic relationship they could have with nature if only they understood and were willing to take precautions with smaller livestock. 

 

In all these years we usually have one bobcat a year come in because he has been hit by a car, shot by a hunter or orphaned.  This year we have had 4 and their stories are here:  http://www.bigcatrescue.org/rehabbobcats2007.htm

 

We also just released a new podcast on the plight of the Florida Panther here: http://www.veoh.com/videos/v1405081SXy4BnYp

 

Thanks again for educating your readers about the FL bobcat.  Their existence depends upon people like you who can give them a voice.

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org    MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

 

Sign our petition to protect tigers here:

 

http://capwiz.com/bigcatrescue/issues/alert/?alertid=9952801&type=CU

 

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