by Rich Tosches
It was a nightmarish sound, a screeching that came from high in a pine tree at the end of our driveway. It was a sound that would make a normal person run away, but I am not that person, a point made clear on a cool April day many years ago when I came hopping into the house holding an angry squirrel by the scruff of the neck and shouted, "Mommy, watch him bite my nose again!" I was 42 and my father took me down with a blast of pepper spray.
The point is, something was making scary noises near the top of a pine tree the other day, and because I have a warrior spirit and fear nothing on this Earth I marched bravely toward the nightmarish sound, pushing the young neighbor kid in front of me, you know, just in case.
As I and the now-struggling child approached the tree, I summoned my vast experience with wild animals and, in a stern voice, called out: "OK, you up there in the tree, I have a gun. Well, I don't actually have it with me at the moment, but I could get it. Let's see how scary you are with a rubber dart stuck to your forehead!!!"
Then the bobcat bared its teeth and hissed at me from a branch not far above my head, and I ran like Levi Johnston when he found out he'd knocked up Bristol "Trumpeting the Call for Abstinence Right After I Get Out of This Backseat" Palin. I made it to the front porch of our house in about five seconds, and it would have been even faster but I lost two or three seconds shoving the little neighbor kid to the ground before I scampered away.
Turns out there were actually two bobcats in the tree. A mother bobcat and a young bobcat, which wildlife experts call a "cub" or "duckling." And then things really got weird. Pacing wildly around the base of the tree was a doe. A deer. A female deer. (Ray, a drop of golden sun. Me, a name, I call myself ...)
Anyway, the girl deer was racing around the tree and the bobcats seemed, well, afraid. The mother bobcat forced her "joey" or "foal" higher into the branches of the tree.
One wildlife Web site (coryi.org, the Coryi Foundation) says the bobcat's diet consists of "rabbits, squirrels, rats, mice, possums, raccoons, quail, jays, wrens, robins, sparrows and occasionally even deer."
The adult bobcat in my tree apparently had not read that and was clearly terrified. This particular bobcat seemed to consider it a good day when she could drag down a mouse from behind and get a bite or two before a robin or a big, mean sparrow would drive her off the carcass.
Eventually, I crept back to the tree, this time with my camera. (Footnote: The neighbor kid was gone. At 8 o' clock that night, his angry father pounded on our door and confronted me. I defused the situation by asking whom he was going to believe, a 6-year-old kid or a 52-year-old guy in Winnie the Pooh pajamas with the feet in them?)
Back at the tree, I took some actual pictures. Perhaps one will run with this column — although the Independent is reluctant to do that because, as part of my contract, it has to pay me extra for photos. (At 12 cents a picture, well, I think you see how it can add up.)
Then, some 45 minutes after I first heard the noises, the most amazing thing happened. As I stood on our dirt road with a neighbor who had stopped to see why I was screaming and jumping up and down, the mother bobcat raced down the tree, screeching, and was chased through the woods and across the dirt road by the deer. I am not kidding. The mother bobcat managed to get away from the deer and snuck back a while later. She coaxed her baby out of the tree and the two ran off together.
Sadly, the dramatic moment when the screeching bobcat was chased by the deer startled me, uh, just a little, and I do not have any photos of that. I did, however, manage to get seven interesting photos of my foot and 16 nice shots of the back of my neck.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org