The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

March 29, 2013

Enjoy the magnificent bobcat while you can

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The Daily Star

---- — Years ago, I took some friends into the Adirondack backcountry to catch some brook trout on Long Pond.

We camped along the western shore of the lake on a little point that jutted into the water. That night, long after the embers from our campfire had darkened, we all were awakened by the most blood-curdling scream you can ever imagine. The sound raised the hair on our necks and sent chills up the spines of my friends. It sounded like a woman who was terrified for her life.

We were many miles from civilization and there wasn’t another soul around. It wasn’t a woman’s cry for help or anything like that. It was just a bobcat.

Recently, several area residents have told me they’ve seen bobcats. A fellow at Colonial Ridge Golf in Laurens told me Tuesday that he had a pair of bobcats mating in his backyard just a few days ago. He lives on Route 205, just north of Laurens.

Another man said he saw a bobcat come down his driveway to stalk some ducks on his pond, which is just below Morris off Route 51, last weekend. And a lady outside of Gilbertsville said she saw a bobcat cross her road several mornings over the last couple of weeks.

I saw my first bobcat on our farm way back in the 1960s. Over the years, I have seen several others.

In the swamp on top of our hill, I’ve seen tracks every year when I’m hunting deer. One day while bow hunting in a tree stand, I watched one sneak through the pines looking for something to eat. A few weeks ago, while hiking on the hill, I saw two different sets of bobcat tracks in the snow.

Bobcats are wonderful, beautiful animals that seem to be at an all-time high right now. In fact, the bobcat has the widest distribution of any native cat in all of North America.

The bobcat’s main diet always has been rabbits and hares, but they regularly feed on small birds, mice and other small mammals, too. They prefer dense cover and uneven, broken terrain, which offers them concealment and relief from inclement weather.

I was at a farm on Dunk Hill in Walton one day, shortly after a bobcat killed one of the prized ducks owned by the woman who lived there. It happened right in her yard in broad daylight, so she was extremely upset.

We went skiing at Belleayre Mountain a few weeks ago, right after a blanket of fresh snow covered the mountain. As we rode up the Tomahawk Lift on the western side of the mountain, I could see cat tracks in the snow. He had wandered in from some thick timber and went right up the mountain, checking out every outcropping and downed log available. Obviously he was hunting for a meal before everyone showed up.

So why are we seeing so many of these cats these days? Honestly, I have no idea. I can only speculate it’s primarily due to the available food supply. With coyotes and other predators consuming the majority of the small animals, the bobcat is forced to come closer to civilization to survive. He has the ability to sneak into our backyards and grab a quick, unsuspecting meal.

Another thing to consider is the bobcat’s breeding season runs from mid-February until April. It may be that the urge to propagate the specie has brought the bobcat closer to populated areas.

Right now, the DEC is considering changes in the hunting and trapping season for bobcats in the state. I guess it’s like the bear. To reduce the nuisance complaints from people, they opened hunting season for bears in more areas. It worked. I don’t necessarily agree, but I let the experts deal with wildlife management.

So if you’re lucky enough to see a bobcat in your backyard, enjoy it. They are magnificent animals.

Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at robrockway@hotmail.com.