Bobcat Tracks and Signs

 

Lynx rufus (formerly Felis rufus)

 
       
 

 
 

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1 5/8 - 2.5 in L x 1 3/8 - 2 5/8 in W

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Bobcat Tracks

 
       
       
       
       

 Natural History of Bobcats

 

Bobcat track at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, CA. June 11, 2000. Elk Prairie Trail. Bobcat tracks show four toes on the front foot and four toes on the hind foot. Cats do not show their claws in their tracks because they are retractable. Cats, unlike dogs, keep their claws sharp by not walking on them.

Bobcats are active any time. They are seen in the daytime, but do a lot of hunting at night. They hunt small mammals, such as mice and squirrels, but can take an animal as large as a deer. Bobcats are shy animals and are not often seen by humans. They can range up to 50 miles a day while hunting, but usually hunt within an area of four to five square miles. They hunt from the ground, but will pounce on prey from trees.

Bobcat young are born in April or May. The average is three kittens per litter. They are born blind and stay with their mother until fall.

Bobcat scat is in segments and usually contains the hair and bones of its prey. Bobcats get up to about 30 pounds. They have short tails (six to seven inches long), while mountain lions have long ones. The end of the tail is black, tipped with white. The body is covered with spots, which can vary between dark and light. The feet have large, soft pads that help them move quietly while stalking prey.

Bobcat drawing by Kim A. Cabrera.

   
Bobcat hiding in tall grass. Photo copyright  Kim A. Cabrera 2008. Do not use without permission.
This bobcat was resting in some brush and tall grass at the edge of an open field. It  had a great view of the entire field and any prey animals that happened to pass by. This field is habitat for jackrabbits, cottontails, deer, voles, and other small rodents that are easy prey for a bobcat. I first saw the outline of the bobcat's head and ears from about halfway across the field. I slowly and quietly walked toward it, being careful not to move suddenly and scare it. The bobcat was aware of me the entire time and just watched me approach. They rely on their camouflage to blend in and hide their presence. The bobcat didn't move until I was about 20 feet away. At that point, it got uncomfortable and decided to quietly sneak off into deeper brush. It moved soundlessly, carefully placing its feet so as not to step on any leaves or twigs. It stopped to look back at me a couple times and make sure I was not following. I just watched and took photos of it. It was an amazing animal and so stealthy! The paws are made for stealth, with large pads on the heels and claws that retract so as not to make any noise. You can browse the bobcat track photos below to see what their footprints look like.

 

To see more photos of the bobcat, visit the Bobcat Photos Page or
the Bobcat Sighting Page.

For more bobcat track photos, visit the Bobcat Track Photo Gallery:
  Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  | Page 4 | Page 5

Bobcat Scat Identification Pages:

Bobcat Scat Pg. 1 | Bobcat Scat Pg. 2 | Bobcat Scrapes

Bobcat Videos from Trail Cameras

Bobcat and Black Bear Scent Marking a Tree

 

   

Bobcat track in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

Bobcat tracks in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

Right hind bobcat track in dust.

Pair of bobcat tracks in dust.

   
Bobcat and deer tracks next to each other. PRedator and prey. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2005.

Bobcat (left) and deer (right) tracks in soil on a recently graded road. Predator and prey may not have been here at the same time. Both were heading the same direction. The direction of travel is from right to left in the photo.

   
Bobcat and dog tracks next to each other. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.

A comparison of the track of a bobcat (left) and a dog (right). The dog track shows a slip due to the speed at which the animal was moving as well as the muddy surface it stepped in. Both of these tracks have aged a bit. They are not fresh. They were found in a drying mud puddle.

 
bobcat and coyote tracks

Another comparison. This one shows the track of a coyote next to the tracks of a bobcat. side-by-side comparisons of tracks of different species are useful to trackers learning how to tell them apart.

 
Left front bobcat track. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.

A close-up of the bobcat track seen above. This is a nicely detailed track and you can see the signs that it has been submerged in the puddle as well. This is the left front foot.

 
   
Bobcat scrape in grass. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Another sign of bobcat presence - a scrape made by a bobcat. This particular bobcat made over a dozen of these in a trail approximately a mile long. This is a form of territorial marking. The bobcat also deposited several scats along this same route.

 
Left front track of a bobcat in mud. Perfect details! Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.
A beautiful left front track in mud. This is a fine track, with all the details. Tracks like this are rare and make trackers very happy!
 
A second left front track from the same bobcat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.

Another fine left front track. This is the same foot as in the above photo. Notice how no two tracks are alike, even made by the same foot on the same animal. This is what makes tracking so much fun.

 
Nice bobcat track in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A nice bobcat track in fine dust on the edge of a dirt road. This bobcat had followed the road for about a mile and a half. I happened upon the tracks when they were only hours old and followed them. It gets more challenging to track on dirt roads after a number of vehicles have driven over them. The extra dust helps to obliterate tracks, so it's best to get to these roads early in the day to find the best tracks! This track illustrates how bobcat tracks can, at times, resemble dog or fox tracks. However, examination of the trail led to the identification as bobcat. This is why making a "single track identification" is never a good idea. It's always best to use all the clues and signs available to you. Follow the trail for a few steps if you find a track like this and make sure of your identification.

 
A bobcat track on a dusty road shows nearly perfect details. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Another nice bobcat track from the same bobcat that I followed down the dirt road. This track shows very good details, but is showing age and accumulation of dust in the print.

 
Left front track from a bobcat paw. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.

A wonderful left front bobcat track. This mud held clear details and even showed where some sand had clung to the toes. Some of the sand was deposited on the edge of the print. Bobcat tracks are a joy to look at!

 
A pair of overlapping bobcat tracks. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2005.

A set of overlapping bobcat tracks. Single, perfect tracks like the one above this photo are not the usual finds. Often, you will find overlapping or partial prints like those above.

 
Perfect right front track from a bobcat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.

It was dark when I attempted to get this photo, so I had to use the flash. This is not the ideal way to photograph tracks, but it worked well in this case. This is a nicely detailed right front foot.

 
Overlapping pair of bobcat tracks. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2005.
Another set of bobcat tracks illustrating the appearance of overlapping prints.
 
Distorted bobcat track due to slip in the mud. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.

This bobcat track shows a lot of distortion caused when the animal slipped in the mud. The toes are not really that long! If you were trying to identify this track from just this photo, you could be misled. This is why it's best to have more clues to base an identification on. Follow the trail for a ways and see if you can find other tracks, or more details that would help identify it.

 
A bobcat trail on recently graded road. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2005.

A clear bobcat trail on a recently graded road surface. Two animals passed this way and you can see where their tracks got close together briefly.

 
 
Bobcat track in snow. Photo donated 1/2/2008.
Beautiful perfect bobcat track in snow. Found near Reno, NV. The bobcat was visiting a haystack to hunt rabbits that visit the haystack to eat hay. Donated photo.

Bobcat track in snow. Photo donated 1/2/2008.

Beautiful perfect bobcat track in snow. Found near Reno, NV. The bobcat was visiting a haystack to hunt rabbits that visit the haystack to eat hay. Donated photo.

Bobcat trail in snow. Photo donated 1/2/2008.

 

 

 

 

Bobcat trail in snow. Found near Reno, NV. Light snow shows nice clear prints. Donated photo.

 

   

Bobcat track in mud. Photo copyright 2008 by Kim A. Cabrera.

Bobcat track in mud. Photo copyright 2008 by Kim A. Cabrera.

Variations in the appearance of bobcat tracks. These tracks were from the same animal and laid down in the same track sequence. Variations of terrain led to the tracks looking distorted.
   

Bobcat track cast. Photo copyright 2008 by Kim A. Cabrera.

Bobcat track in mud. Photo copyright 2008 by Kim A. Cabrera.

The casting on the left was made from the track shown on the right. This print was nearly perfect and the cast shows many details that are difficult to see in the actual track without proper lighting. Using a flashlight held at a low angle would allow the tracker to control the light source and bring out many details that are not easy to see with just sunlight for illumination. The cast is the "positive" image and the track itself is the "negative." The track is from the right front foot. (RF) The green material used to cast the print is called Traxtone. It is stronger than plaster of Paris, but much more expensive.
   

Bobcat track in mud. Photo copyright 2008 by Kim A. Cabrera.

This bobcat track resembles a gray fox track. The alignment of the leading toe and the heel pad shape, as well as the lack of claw marks, help identify it as bobcat.
   
Bobcat track in dust.

Bobcat track in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

   

Bobcat footprints  in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This pair of bobcat tracks found at the side of a dirt road was very fresh when found, but it was too dark to photograph them. These photos were taken when they were one day old.
   

Bobcat pawprints in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Bobcat paw print in dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

There are three bobcat tracks in this photo. One is a front track partially obliterated by the hind track. This bobcat track was fairly fresh. It still had nice crisp edges and hadn't been rounded off by the wind.
   

Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Bobcat scat placement on dirt road. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A bobcat scat found on a dirt road. The photo on the right shows where it was placed on the road. This is a common placement for a bobcat. Apparently, depositing a scat in the middle of a road is a marker for other animals to find and read.
   

A very fresh Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Placement of the fresh Bobcat scat seen at left. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

The bobcat scat (above left) was very fresh when found on a dirt road in early morning. There were nice bobcat tracks in the dust next to it, but no scrape mark. The photo above right shows the placement of the scat on the road. Bobcats will often deposit scat at trail intersections, or in the middle of a dirt road or trail. A dog walking on this road several days later caught the scent of the scat after it had walked past it. It stopped, sniffed the air, and turned around and went right to the scat, which it spent several minutes sniffing. So this an effective manner of communication among animals.

 

 

Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

Bobcat scats. Bobcat scats are usually segmented, but not always. Their digestive system is very efficient, so the hair and bones are often almost completely digested by the time they are eliminated in scats.
   
Bobcat scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
Bobcat scat found at the top of a slope on a trail. This scat was deposited on a rock outcrop that forms part of the trail. It is the highest point on the trail. See photo below.
   
Bobcat scat location. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
The arrow points to the location where the scat in the photo above this one was deposited. The bobcat walked along the dirt trail, leaving nice tracks. When it got to the tallest point, the top of this rock, it deposited a scat there. Location is everything to wild predators.
   

Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

Very fresh bobcat scat.
   

Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera.

Very fresh Bobcat scat, minutes old. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera.

Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera.

Three bobcat scats, above, above left, and left. The scat above is very fresh, having been deposited only minutes before I took the photo.

   
 

This bobcat scat shows the classic segmented appearance. Not all scats look so textbook perfect. Scats vary with the animal's diet and the moisture content of food, etc. Even scats from the same animal won't always appear with the same consistency, color, contents, or firmness.

Bobcat scat showing classic segmented appearance. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

   

Bobcat scat found on a dirt road.  Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A bobcat scat found on a dirt road. This was relatively fresh. I had driven home on this road less than an hour before I hiked it and found this scat. There were clear bobcat tracks in the dust next to it. The cat had walked down the road and had not been in a hurry.
   
Latrine with scats of a bobcat, gray fox, and raccoon.  Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A latrine site used by several species. The bobcat scat on the left was the first deposit. A raccoon deposited the scat on the upper right, then a gray fox left the one on the lower right. This latrine was found where two dirt roads met in a mixed oak forest. One of the dirt roads is rarely used.
   
Bobcat scat latrine.  Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This latrine site contained five bobcat scats. They were all of various ages. This location was on an abandoned dirt road, where an animal trail crossed. There was dense brush on either side of the road, with the animal trail being obvious. The location was a mixed forest of pine, oak, redwood  and Douglas fir.

   
Fresh bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A very fresh bobcat scat found on my road. There were bobcat tracks, as well as raccoon tracks.
The tracks indicated that the raccoon had walked over to check out the bobcat scat, then moved on.
 
Close-up of the fresh bobcat scat, showing fur from prey.  Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A close-up of the scat above. It contained fur from prey as well as bloodmeal.
 
Location of scat deposit on dirt road. Good bobcat habitat area. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
The photo above shows the location where this scat was found. Bobcats will frequently deposit their scats in the middle of roads and trails in this area. To the right, just off the road, is a pond. I once took a photo of a bobcat at that pond. I have seen several bobcats crossing the road near here as well. This is very good bobcat habitat, with plenty of rabbits, squirrels, and rodents to hunt.
 
 
Bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
The scat above was found on the top of a rock outcrop that overlooks a trail. This is the highest point in the area and the bobcat deposited the scat in the most prominent point. This behavior is a way of marking territory. The scat's location in the middle of a trail in a highly visible location assures that other animals will notice it and examine it. Scat is thus used by many species as a means of communication.
 
Bobcat scat at the top of a rock outcrop. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
An overview photo showing the location of the scat deposit above. This rock outcrop overlooks the river to the right and the trail below.
 
Bobcat scat in a scrape. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A bobcat scat in a scrape. The scrape area covers about 18 inches, with the scat being deposited in the middle. Bobcats will often leave scrapes like this, with or without scats in them.
 
close-up of Bobcat scat from the scrape. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A close-up of the bobcat scat found in the above scrape.
 
 
Right front track of a bobcat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

This right front track of a bobcat was found on the edge of a dirt road. The edges don't receive as much traffic as the middle of the road, thus the powdery fine dust builds up deep here. This is one is the best places to find nice tracks like this one.

 
Bobcat tracks in deep dust. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Another pair of nice bobcat tracks in deep dust at the edge of a dirt road. Trackers are always looking in places like these for tracks. Each season has its benefits to the tracker. Summer provides this fine dust. Winter provides mud and snow.

 
   

Bobcat track. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera.

A nice track in very deep dust. The details of the print are easily identifiable as feline in this photo.
   

 

A rare perfect bobcat track. Nicely formed tracks like this that show all the details are not what you usually find. A find like this is exciting to a tracker.

Perfect Bobcat track. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2007.

   

Bobcat skull side view. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Side view of a bobcat skull from a private collection.

   
Bobcat skull front view. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
Front view of a bobcat skull from a private collection. Check out those canine teeth!
 
Domestic cat curious about a bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Boots, the domestic cat, investigates a bobcat scat on a trail. Boots often follows me when I go walking near home. This scat was on a trail above the river. Boots sniffs at all the bobcat scats he comes across. I have noticed, however, that he tends to ignore the coyote scats. Perhaps there is something to this. Interspecies scats don't interest him, but those of other felines to.

 
Domestic cat investigating a bobcat scat. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Boots, the domestic cat, investigating another bobcat scat. This scat was located at the top of a rock outcrop on a trail above the river. A very prominent placement that almost assures that other cats who pass this location will see it and come to investigate.

 
Domestic cat investigating site where bobcat sparyed. Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Boots, the domestic cat, investigating a location where a bobcat sprayed on a bush. Bobcats will spray like this along their trails, but this is a sign that is invisible to humans unless there is snow on the ground, or you go over and sniff the bush yourself. Boots located this one for me.

 
Domestic cat investigation bobcat scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Bones, my pet cat, approaching a bobcat scat at the river. Domestic cats seem to know the scats of their larger cousins, the bobcats. I have watched her ignore coyote scats and those of gray foxes as well. But she will investigate those of bobcats.

 
Domestic cat investigation bobcat scat. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

Cats rely on scents for many things. Scats and urine are used for marking among felines. Bones, the cat, spent several moments in her examination of this bobcat scat. I have noticed the boundaries that my cats will stay within change as they explore and find scats and urine markings from the wild cats that live in their home.

 
Bobcat track pair. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.

A nice pair of bobcat tracks in mud. These tracks could be confused with gray fox tracks. However, following the trail that led to them there were other tracks that were clearly bobcat. Trackers shouldn't rely on "single track identification." It's best to follow the trail a bit if you have tracks that resemble those of another species. Confirm what species it is by finding other tracks.

 
Bobcat track cast. Photo copyright Kim A. Cabrera 2008.
A nice casting made from a beautiful bobcat track. Notice the details of the heel pad. The three parts to the hind edge and the two parts to the front edge. Notice also the alignment of the toes, with one toe leading the other. These are all cat characteristics.
 

 

 

Note: The bobcat paw photos below are from a road-killed animal. No animal was killed for these pictures. It was found dead on the side of the road. Photos taken at Walker Creek Ranch near Petaluma, California.

Bobcat front paw.

Bobcat hind paw.

Front paw of a bobcat. Claws are not visible - they are retractable. Front feet are larger than hind feet. Front foot is usually wider than it is long. Notice the slightly different shape of the heel pad. Hind paw of a bobcat. Notice the overall shape of the foot is longer than it is wide. Toes spread out when the animal is walking, but the hind track is usually smaller than the front.

Canine vs. Feline tracks (Is it a cat or a dog?)

 

Personal Notes on Bobcats

I have seen a few bobcats. One I saw from less than six feet away. I was working the entrance station at the state park where I work summers. I looked out and saw a bobcat coming up the road toward me. It was hunting the long grass by the side of the road. Right across the road from me, it stopped and crouched. Then, it pounced on something in the grass. Whatever it was, the bobcat missed. I grabbed my camera and went out to take some pictures. The bobcat knew I was there, but it ignored me and continued hunting. I took lots of pictures of it. Then, it went on up the hill. It didn’t run away. Just went a ways up the hill and sat down and looked at me. It licked a paw, then turned and walked away. A very beautiful animal and very elusive. I have seen two in the past three years. Both were near roads. Doesn’t mean the bobcats spend a lot of time near roads. It means I spend a lot of time on the roads. I have noticed that cat tracks (including bobcat and mountain lion) show the two front toes not side by side as some track books show them. Rather, the two front toes are slightly offset so that one is ahead of the other a bit. Don’t know if this is true for all cats. Just something I noticed in the cat tracks I’ve found. They are asymmetrical rather than symmetrical like dog tracks usually are.

 

 

My Cat Escapes from a Bobcat Twice

This story is a little long, but it details the adventures of my cat, Bones, and her two narrow escapes from a bobcat. Following the story are photos of the tracks of the bobcat and Bones. The story appears here word for word, exactly as I wrote it right after the incident. I emailed this story around to other trackers, so you may have read it before. Note:  Of all the stories on this web site, this story has generated the most responses and some of the strangest. Read on...

The Double Miracle Cat
April 13, 2000
Humboldt County, California

 

About an hour ago, I was sitting here checking my email with the door open and the cats running in and out to play and eat. One of the cats, Blackie, had been playing outside and he came running back inside. He ran and hid. Strange behavior, I thought. I looked outside, but saw nothing. Blackie kept acting strangely though. He sat at the door and wouldn't go outside. He was very alert and was watching something outside very intently. I thought it was the birds who were out there eating the grass seed I had placed out there for the turkeys. I didn't think anything more of it.

It was just a normal day until I heard the sound that I do not ever want to hear again as long as I live. The sound of predation. The sound I heard the night my cat disappeared about two months ago and was gone so long I figured she was dead. It was a gurgling, strangling sound. I had heard it before, but it took a moment for my brain to catalog it and identify it. When I realized what it was, I was on my feet and moving toward the door. That's when I heard it again. I burst out the door and saw... nothing. Nothing, that is, until I looked to my right to the favorite perch of Bones the cat. There, scattered around on the torn up ground, were tufts of her white fur. Amidst the clumps of fur were tracks. Cat tracks. I turned the corner of the building and headed toward the deck because that's where I thought the sound had last originated from. There were tracks, but I saw nothing.

I looked under the deck and saw Junior, another cat. He looked at me, but he didn't move. He looked toward the river. I noticed a disturbance in the jays over by the river access trail below the lodge. No other birds were making such a racket. I figured that's where Bones, and whatever had hold of her, must have gone. I went back up toward my cabin and grabbed a flashlight, in case I had to search under the building. Outside again, I noticed more tracks and very torn up ground heading toward the Headquarters building. There were a couple of places where the bobcat (that's what I figured it was) must have stopped to struggle with Bones, or adjust its hold on her.

I ran toward the river access. There at the corner was a long drag mark. Several pieces of white fur were on the ground. I got to the steps leading to the river trail and there was the scene of a huge struggle. The ground was torn up, leaves scattered everywhere and tufts of white fur all over. The amount of fur must have been shocking because I looked at the leaves and saw blood on them. I didn't stop to examine them closer. I ran for the river. I went crashing through the brush to see what the jays were squawking about, but found no more disturbed ground or tufts of fur.

I made my way back to the river access and saw several possible tracks. It had rained today, so I knew the only fresh tracks would be from Bones or the bobcat. When I hit the river bar, I saw that there were now two separate sets of tracks. Bones, and the bobcat in hot pursuit. The tracks were spaced far apart and both were in an all-out race. I found no more blood and hoped that Bones would be fast enough to get away.

I followed the tracks until I got to gravel and river cobble. There I lost patience and started to run while signcutting for the tracks. I went first toward the south because that's the way the tracks appeared to have turned before I lost them. I went until I came to a clear, untouched patch of sand. No tracks. I backtracked and headed north on the river bar. By this point, I was starting to lose it because I was losing time. I figured, if the bobcat had Bones, I didn't have long to find them before it killed her. I ran back up the river bar, calling Bones. (Don't know why.) Nothing. No tracks north either. I went back to the gravel, but decided they may have run back through the brush toward camp. That's where I headed. I stopped by the last set of tracks. One Bones track and a huge bobcat track, with dewclaw and everything. I took a moment to wish her swift feet and I placed a big rock in front of the bobcat track and said, "Trip and stumble so Bones can get away."

I hurried back up toward the lodge. I stopped to grab a tuft of Bones' fur at the site where the big struggle had taken place. That is where I am sure Bones got out of the bobcat's grip and started running. In my panic before, I had seen blood. Now, I looked closer and saw that the "blood" was actually the underside of the wet maple leaves. The moisture turned them dark and reddish. My brain had been so intent before on the fact that a predator was trying to kill my cat, that I had actually seen blood where there was none. This gave me a little bit of hope. She was alive where I had found the last tracks and she was running. If she was injured, it probably wasn't too badly. I hoped she was able to run swiftly enough.

I hurried around the lodge to the parking area and started cutting for sign. No tracks on the road or on the other river access. I went all the way down it to the river again. By this time, I knew I was too far behind. I remembered that Bones had growled at something in the brush behind me this weekend when I had sat on a log by the river to sand a woodworking project. Maybe there's a bobcat den there, I thought. If the bobcat caught her, and if it had young, that's where it would take its prey. I headed toward that spot. As I was doing this, I realized how stupid it was of me to be following a wild bobcat around, especially one that may have prey and may have young around. They will defend both. I picked up a couple pieces of driftwood and continued. I was literally prepared to fight the thing and club it to death if need be.

I again signcut the perimeter of the riverbank, looking for any tracks, disturbance, fur, anything. It was almost dark and I had found nothing. I went back in the fading light to the last known tracks. All I could do was go step-by-step. The slowest method of tracking. I started out, but quickly realized that I could spend hours doing that and it might not get me very far. I kept calling for Bones, hoping she would answer. Hoping she had gotten away and was hiding in the brush.

A couple times, I though I heard a faint meow, but it was drowned out by other noises - trucks on the road above, the wind, the river, the birds. I was not certain of what I was hearing. I finally gave up when it got too dark. It had been almost an hour since she was carried off. All I could do was hope that she got away. I knew it might take weeks for her to come back (if she ever did), like it did last time. She must have run far last time.

I went back up to the lodge and called for Bones. I tried to get the other cat to come inside, but he wouldn't go. I went inside the lodge to get something and, when I came out, I happened to glance toward the deck. There, half hidden around the corner, was the very wet rear end of a cat. A black tail...Bones!! I called her and headed that way.

She was drenched and muddy and shaking, but alive and standing. She was still really freaked out and started to run away from me, but I stopped. I knelt down and called her. She kept alertly looking all around - searching for the bobcat. Finally, she ran to me. She didn't appear to be bloody. I picked her up and her heart was racing! I hurried up to my cabin and put her inside. Knowing the bobcat must still be around and that it was still hungry, I had to get Junior, the other cat, inside. He refused to come when called, so I lured him by opening a can of the "good stuff" - the canned cat food. He knows the sound of the can opening means he's in for a treat. That got him. He came up to the stairs and I lured him inside.

Bones does not appear to have any injuries. As before, she has patches of fur missing. There is a place on her leg where all the fur is scraped off. There is a scratch mark there. Overall, she appears to be OK. She is very shaken and tired, but I think she will be OK. She is sitting by my feet, cleaning her fur.

Can you believe that? Same cat gets taken by a bobcat twice and gets away twice! Probably the same bobcat. Bones got away again. Problem is, that bobcat came right up here while I was sitting in here with the door standing wide open. Fear of people? This bobcat is bold. That's dangerous for my cats. Of course, I wasn't being noisy either. Maybe it figured there weren't any humans around.  Pretty scary. So, Bones is the double miracle cat. She did it again.
 

 

Pictures of the tracks from the bobcat chase
Tracks from the bobcat chase. The bobcat track in the lower right of the photo and Bones' track in the upper left.
Close-up of the bobcat's left front foot. Note the mark from the "dewclaw" at about the 4 inch mark on the ruler. The bobcat was running and the toes spread out to give it more traction. Bobcat left front foot.
Bobcat right front track. The bobcat's right front foot, also showing a mark from the "dewclaw." Note the sand disks pushed back by the outside toes, indicating fast forward motion. Claw mark barely visible on the far right toe.
A set of bobcat tracks in the sand. Tracks from Bones on the right. Tracks from bobcat chase.
Bobcat claw marks. Close up of a bobcat track, showing claw marks as the cat dug in to gain speed.
Bones' track, also showing claw marks and toes spread out. Claw marks from Bones the cat.
Tufts of cat fur. Tufts of Bones' fur at the site of torn up ground. Here was the struggle with the bobcat. A drag mark preceded this scene, where Bones was being dragged off by the bobcat. Bones got away at this point and they headed toward the river, with the bobcat in pursuit and me not far behind them.
A single bobcat toe print, with the arrow indicating a piece of Bones' fur that was carried here on the bobcat's foot. Cat fur in a bobcat toe print.
 
 
And here is a follow-up story that happened about 2 weeks later, on April 29, 2000. Again, this is word-for-word exactly as I emailed it out. Note that I take certain risks around wildlife and I do not encourage anyone to do these things. In other words, do not try this at home!
 
I saw it! I stalked it! I got to within 20 feet of it! The bobcat was here again! And I scared the daylights out of it. (I hope.)

I went outside because it was dark and Bones had not come in yet. I was worried about her. I went out and it took a lot of calling to get her to come in. She finally appeared over by the tool shed and ran to me. I picked her up and brought her inside. As I got near my door, I used my flashlight to scan the area. I picked up the reflection from a pair of eyes over near the flagpole below the lodge and headquarters building. I thought it might be a fox, but it didn't move like a fox, and when it got up and walked, I saw that it had no tail. My arch enemy!

I put Bones inside and closed the door. All cats accounted for. Now, time for the showdown. I have to defend my territory and stake my claim or the bobcat will never leave. Not that I really want it to leave. I just want it to leave my cats alone. It is a magnificent animal. But it already killed one cat back in February...

Anyway, I took the flashlight and started stalking the bobcat. I hit a few leaves and broke a stick, but it stayed there because it couldn't see me. I cheated and kept the big flashlight on its face so it wouldn't see me. I had a rock in my hand to use if necessary. I couldn't have missed from 20 feet away. I carefully negotiated the step down from the trail to the area with the plants outside the lodge. Then, there was a big step down of about 1 1/2 feet. I had to kneel down and do it slowly because there were leaves below. I got down there and had another step down from the rock wall to the path. Then, a short stretch of concrete and I was on the dirt and leaves.

I went slowly, keeping the light in its eyes. I got to about 25 feet and it decided to go behind the bench. Darn! I crept closer. Then, it must have caught my scent. I was about 20 feet away and it popped its head up over the back of the bench. It probably heard me breathing. It looked at me for a minute, then, it turned to leave and I gave it a boost. I shouted and yowled my most horrible "big cat" yowl. I threw the rock, which bounced downhill through the leaves. I then listened and heard the bobcat retreating down the hill toward the river. I kept up the shouting and yowling. It sounded as horrible as I could make it. I hope the cat got the idea.

'My territory!" I shouted. "Go away!" In a way, I feel bad, because bobcats aren't commonly seen. But, rare animal or no, it ate one of my cats and I have to defend my territory. The bobcat probably just thought I was a crazy human, and he's probably right, but I don't care what it thinks. I only want it to leave my cats alone. I wondered today what Junior kept meowing at. Now I know. He wouldn't have been meowing at Bones. It was the kind of meow he uses when he plays and wrestles with the other cats. Could he possibly be playing with the bobcat? Anyway, the adventure continues.
 
So, that's our story. Hope you have enjoyed reading it. Bones is healed from her adventure and is outside playing in the sun. Hopefully she will not encounter the bobcat again.
Update #3: November 2000.

I found the bobcat tracks again. This time, it walked down the dirt road and turned off at the river access road. It didn't come near my home, but it was within easy sight from the window. Had I been looking out, I would have seen it. It was there at night though. I also found numerous bobcat territorial markings on the dirt road above the camp. It is claiming more and more of the place as its territory. Not long ago, I ran into the Fish and Game warden and he told me that he'd had to shoot  cougar that was killing livestock. Inside its stomach, he found the remains of a domestic cat. Apparently, it is not uncommon for the large wild cats to prey on our domestic pet cats. There may be more to this story yet.   


Update #4: December 29, 2000. I found more fresh scent posts on the road above the camp. Here are the pictures of the best one.

Bobcat scat found near Redway, California. Photo by Kim A. Cabrera.

The bobcat scat was next to a scrape area in the dirt. This appeared to be fairly fresh as the scrape hadn't been rained on and it had rained in the last couple days. The coin is a penny for size comparison. It is 3/4 inch across. This scat is typical cat shape. There are sometimes deeper constrictions in the scat though. This one has a pointed end on the right, which is usually a trait seen in canine scat.
The scrape is visible in the lower portion of this photo. It is said that cats scrape in the direction they are facing or traveling. I don't know how true that is. In any case, there were two of these scent posts on the road and both were very fresh. Bones the cat had been following me on my walk, but she had refused to come up the trail to this area. There may have been other sign that she found and I missed. There were three older mounds like this, but the two fresh ones told me the bobcat had been here very recently.

Bobcat scat and scrape found December 29, 2000. Photo by Kim A. Cabrera.

 
Update #5: December 3, 2003 - December 16, 2003. The bobcat adventures continue....
   

On Dec. 3, after a very long day, I was driving down the dirt road toward home thinking about wildlife sightings I have had along there. When I passed the place where I had seen a bobcat recently, the thought crossed my mind that, "wouldn't it be interesting if I came around the corner down by the sewage plant and found a cougar devouring a deer right in the middle of the road." I donít know why that particular thought came to me at that time. I could even see it in my imagination, blood dripping off the cougarís teeth. But when I got there, I saw no cougar.

 

Continuing down the road, I really didn't expect to see anything. I just figured it was my imagination being overly active. Then, something caught my attention out of the corner of my right eye. I hit the brakes and backed up. Whatever it was, it didn't belong there. I know every inch of that road. I thought it was a deer lying down, which seemed strange since it didnít get up and run away. I backed up enough that my headlights illuminated it.

 

It WAS a deer, and it was lying down. And not moving. Uh oh. There was no blood visible on it, no branch laying on it as if it had been hit by a widowmaker, no poacher's arrow sticking out of it. Nothing to indicate why there was a dead deer lying by the side of the road. It was definitely not sleeping in that position, and I couldn't see its chest rise, so it probably wasn't breathing.  I got the flashlight and went over to examine the body. My first thought was that a poacher had killed it, and I was looking for gunshot wounds or arrow holes. There was some blood on the mouth, and the neck was wet with saliva (not the deer's as it turns out). No other wounds were apparent.

 

I then looked at the ground. The deer had been dragged there. The surface showed clear drag marks. No human tracks around. Uh oh.  Only one animal living near me is big enough to drag a full grown adult deer off the road like that and it was NOT the animal I wanted to meet in the foggy dark while hobbling around so soon after having surgery on my knee. I started to shine my light up into the trees and into the brush behind the deer. I found a bit of blood in the drag mark area, then a bigger spot of blood, maybe 6 inches across. Looking behind me and onto the road, there were places where hooves had dug up the ground and dirt had been kicked all over the place. It had rained a bit the day before, and none of this showed signs of rain. The tracks were fresh, and on top of the outgoing vehicle tracks I had left hours before. The deer carcass was still warm to the touch. The fur was not wet from rain.

 

This had not been here when I had left for my appointment at 3:00p.m. It was now almost 8p.m. and fully dark. Fog closed everything in and I couldn't even see the lights from the house on top of the cliff across the river, my only neighbor. I shone my big light out into the meadow, looking for predator eye shine. There was a deer there, but it was not looking at me. It was looking at the hillside above me. (I flashed back to a very similar incident a couple months ago when two deer were in the meadow in the morning and I stopped the car and got out and walked to within 15 feet of them and took pictures, but they ignored me and intently concentrated on something on the hillside behind me. In that incident, I examined the madrone tree above the road when I got home that afternoon and found marks where something large had climbed the tree, knocking off pieces of moss. At the time, I figured it was either the bobcat or the mountain lion, the tracks both of which I had found not too far from this spot.)

 

So, who killed the deer I had just found? Not a person. There was no arrow or gunshot wound. There were marks on the neck where it had been gripped to drag the animal off the road. There had been quite a struggle. I had inadvertently parked on top of some of the signs of this. When I went back to the car for the camera, I noticed blood on a coyote brush bush next to where I had parked. The ground under the bush was ripped up. I backed up the car and examined the road surface some more. There had been one heck of a big struggle. I thought that what killed the deer was possibly a young cougar. It may have been small enough that this doe could put up something of a fight. The angle at which the neck lay was unnatural. I think it finally managed to kill the deer by breaking its neck. But it didn't get off easy. I think I just happened to come down the road at the time it was dragging its kill off the road into the brush. I may have temporarily scared it off. After getting what photos I could in the dark with the flash, I got back in the car and left.

 

As I continued down the road toward home, I saw a big buck that has been in rut for the last three weeks chasing one doe out in the meadow. Another doe had been close to the sewage plant. As I drove by the buck and doe, I noticed that they were no longer looking up the hillside behind me. Of course, the buck hadn't been. He was too interested in that doe. Perhaps the cat decided to retreat until the human with the noisy car and big flashlight left. I was sure it would be back. It wouldn't leave that carcass for long.

 

I figured this was a good opportunity to see how a carcass progresses in the process of feeding other animals. Next day, I went up to check on it and see if anything had been eaten. It was my birthday and I got a nice surprise birthday present. I found the carcass partially buried with debris. Looking up, I saw the culprit watching me from about 20 feet away. His eyes gazed at me intently, unmoving. The only thing moving was his short tail, which kept twitching back and forth. It was not a young cougar; it was a bobcat. It surprised me that he was able to kill such a large deer. I raised the camera and got a couple still photos of him as well as a short video clip, before he melted into the brush and disappeared.

 

Since that day, I visited every day, once a day, to take photos of the progression and see what has changed. Although I looked carefully into the brush near the carcass, and up into the trees, I had yet to see the bobcat again. The carcass was covered up with more debris each day, so I knew he was still around.

 

Today, December 16, I went back to check on it again, thinking that, after 13 days and the carcass starting to smell, the cat would move on and find other prey. I didnít expect it to stay around this long, but maybe hunting isnít too good right now. There didnít appear to be much missing from the carcass this time, although half the ear had been eaten. I took a couple photos and stepped back and suddenly something caught my eye. It wasnít movement. It was a shape. Lying in the brush, about 8 feet from me, was the bobcat himself! He stared at me and looked away as if he didnít think I was a threat. I slowly raised the camera and started taking photos of him, some with the flash and some without. I started quietly talking to him. He looked at me a couple times and I looked away and pretended to be looking at the deer. Then he would look away, as if he didnít think I saw him. He stayed perfectly still. Only his eyes moved. I took a step closer and his eyes widened and looked directly into mine. He knew then that he had been seen. I began to very slowly raise the camera and he suddenly jumped up and disappeared. He was gone so fast, I could only listen to the crashing sounds as he jumped away through the brush. After he was gone, it hit me. I had been that close to a bobcat. Had I not moved, he probably would have stayed longer, relying on his camouflage and stillness to hide him. And he was well camouflaged. Later, looking through the photos of the deer carcass, in one of them I can see the bobcat in the brush.

 

 

I will post the photos of the bobcat and the deer carcass soon and provide a link on this page.


 

More bobcats? March/April 2005
I have seen four bobcats in the last month. All sightings were near the same area. I suspect there may be a den nearby. The cats I have seen have all been small and young. The first one was sitting in the middle of the dirt road as I drove home. I came down and hill and there it was. I slowed down and tried to grab my camera, but I was too late. the cat bounded off the road and into the tall grass. I watched it disappear.

A week later, I was about 1/4 mile further on the same road when I saw another bobcat. This one was very small. It ran out of the brush and tore across the road and into the brush on the other side. It then made a zigzag and went back onto the dirt road again and ran off down the road until it was out of sight.

Later that same week, after a rain, I was walking the dirt road and found some fresh bobcat tracks. I didn't see the cat, but knew it had been there since the rain stopped that morning. The next day, I saw the bobcat in this same area on my way home from work.

I have looked around the area, but have yet to locate the den.....

 

March 2006

I finally got a photo of the bobcat! I was at the pond and I was photographing Rough-skinned newts in the water. This is the time of year when they are mating and several were at the surface, so I was attempting to get photos. I heard a coughing noise coming from the brush across the pond from me. I know that birds certainly don't cough. The only animals I know that do are mammals. (The Pacific giant salamander barks, but this was a different sound.) So, thinking I could lure out whatever animal was in there, I made a squeaking noise. I repeated it several times. Then I waited. Soon, I saw movement in the brush. It was fur. I held still and just watched as a bobcat came out of the brush and, looking right at me, sat down. It sat there, observing me, for about five minutes before it got up and sauntered off into the brush. It wasn't bothered by my presence, apparently. It was across the pond and felt safe.
 

2008

Bobcat Latrine Site

I hiked into a place I call The Wasteland. I call it that because it's a place where sludge from a water treatment plant is buried. It's really stinky at times and not a good place to hang out. However, I don't spend the time there. I go through on my way to other trails on the other side. This time I went toward the creek drainage down an old dirt road that had long been overgrown. It was recently re-opened and I wanted to see what there was to find out there. So I was past the furthest point that I had been here before. In the past, getting to the old logging road involved taking a rope and tying it to a big tree limb and lowering myself over the lip of the drop-off created by a rockslide that had taken out the road years ago. It was the only way to reach the rest of the road, which could be seen on the other side of the slide. Well, when they re-opened the road, they fixed the slide so you can walk across! cool.  You don't need to ask me twice. I went on across to see what there was to see.

Down the trail a ways, I found a nice open area. The trail went through and trees and brush grew up against the edges of the opening. In this place, I found several bobcats of various ages deposited in the same area. I photo graphed what I could and went on about my explorations. The trail led to the creek eventually, with another spur heading off to a canyon where the bear used to hang out. That's another story though.

I returned to this place about a week later. Apparently, the bobcat didn't like me visiting his territory. Where there had been some scats last time, there were now more of them. I counted ten scats, many with scrapes. The bobcat had followed the same route I did just about all the way down the trail form the top. I found numerous scrapes, without scats as well. There were 16 scrapes. This entire trail was about two miles long, so that's a lot of scent marking! I don't know if it was one bobcat on one trip, or if it took several trips up and down the trail to create that much sign. Or if it was several animals. Either way, the bobcats apparently were responding to my intrusion into their territory by reclaiming it with their own markers. It was a very interesting and enlightening tracking experience. 

 
Right front pawprint of a bobcat.  Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.
 
Left front bobcat pawprint in mud.  Photo copyright by Kim A. Cabrera 2006.

 

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Bobcat Cat Track Keepsake Ornament

Bobcat Cat Track Keepsake Ornament

This ornament is perfect for any cat lover. Bobcats, cougars and domestic cats all have similar tracks, differing only in size. This ornament has a perfect cat track in the center. Sure to please.