March 19, 2007

When do you find yourself saying "here, kitty kitty" to a bobcat?

An encounter in California:
This past Saturday, I was mountain biking near the summit of Loma Alta, near Fairfax, when suddenly a big furry critter jumped off a berm crossing directly across the road in front of me. I got off my bike to get a closer look and there, staring me in the face about 20 feet in front of me, was a quite large bobcat. We kind of did a face-to-face stare down for a couple of minutes. Then it just laid down, and soon after, I sat down ... We sat there together for a good 20 minutes, perhaps even a half hour. Somewhat embarrassed to say, but 15 minutes into this viewing I actually uttered the words, "Here kitty-kitty!" What was I thinking! Eventually it stood up, gave a stretch and casually bounded down a stream-cut ravine.
How scary is a bobcat anyway? This isn't like saying "here, kitty kitty" to a tiger. (I'm thinking of the scene in "The Life of Pi" when Pi foolishly encourages the tiger to swim to the lifeboat.) A bobcat is double the size of a house cat. Me, I'm afraid of house cats roaming about outdoors. A double-size cat would scare me, but would it terrify me? Perhaps you've had a bobcat -- or other wild cat -- encounter you can tell us about.


reality check said...

I was entering Yosemite on the Tioga Pass after dark and we witnessed a mountain lion jump entirely across the road. Pretty impressive.

I decided to devote my life towards the truth and bring a bite of reality into everyone's lives.

AllenS said...

By the way, how are you and the neighbors cat getting along? If I remember, you two had issues.

Patrick said...

I walked down the stairs off my deck and noticed a bobcat walking about thirty feet away from me, higher on the hill where my car is parked.

For a second I thought it was a housecat. Except it was in fact twice as large, much more burly, and had that wide face. I could tell he was taking an early afternoon walk, and was completely unconcerned about me. He stopped and stared at me. I stared back. Not for twenty minutes, but for a few. He even seemed to wag his stubby little tale.

I didn't say "here kitty, kitty" though I did say hello, and ask what he was up to on this fine winter day. He didn't respond, and soon after returned to his casual walk up past my neighbor's house.

They're not scary at all. They've no interest in humans as meals, unlike a mountain lion. It would have surprised me more if it had been a house cat. We don't have house cats wandering around in my forest neighborhood. The bobcats and the coyotes are very dangerous to small pets.

I've had similar experiences with coyotes as a matter of fact. They're even more curious. Was sitting on a chair reading a book and had a small pack wander to the edge the clearing I was in. One approached me and started circling me. Just curious, I could see it in his eyes. I chatted with him too before he wandered off.

I knew he was just curious because another close encounter with a coyote I had I saw a different look. I could actually see him sizing me up, deciding if I was worth it. Very different expression. Unnerving.

So, now I just run after them. They're cowards really. Show a little aggression and they'll take off.

I wouldn't do that with mountain lions or with wolves though.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Well it wasn’t a bobcat or any of the feline family but I did have a close encounter with nature about 20 years ago I was fishing up in Glidden Wisconsin with my dad and some family friends at their cabin.

As I was the only one who had not consumed an over abundance of beer the night before, I had gotten up very early to do some fishing and after catching a nice number of perch tied up at the pier and started walking up a small hill back to the cabin when I was greeted by a black bear who was standing between myself and the relative safety of the cabin. Like your bobcat, Mr. Bear just stood there and stared at me while I was trying to maintain my composure as well as bladder control. I debated tossing one or two of the perch toward him/her to show my good intentions and then decided that was a dumb idea as was pretty much anything I could do short of playing dead. After what seemed an eternity, (it was probably 2 minutes) he sniffed the air, looked around and then just walked back into the woods.

Just as an FYI, they lose their cuteness when they’re not separated by a gate.

Freder Frederson said...

A bobcat that acts like that is certainly something to worry about. That is extremely odd behavior and you might be facing a rabid animal, which is a very bad thing.

Roger said...

I was returning home one evening and a deer ran across the road in front of me. I slammed on my brakes only to hear a thunk on the rear quarter panel. I got out of the car to find that a bobcat, apparently chasing the deer, had run into the car. Figuring even a stunned bobcat could wake up in an unpleasant mood, I watched from a distance; it gradually regained consciousness, saw me, and bounded off.

In general, my philosophy is let wild animals completely alone.

Roger said...

I hadnt seen Fred's post, but he raises a really good point: an animal that lacks a fear of humans is quite possibly sick. My county health district recorded three wild animal bites last year: skunk, racoon and coyote, all of which tested positive for rabies. The victims had to take the rabies prophylaxis.

MadisonMan said...

I agree with Freder. This bobcat did not display wild behavior, which should worry you. That said, a bobcat isn't gonna kill you, or likely attack you (where You=an adult). If you're out walking your poodle, or your toddler, I'd be more worried.

Molon_Labe_Lamp said...


Yosemite is the crown jewel in the NPS and Tioga Pass is the grand entrance befitting Yosemite.

Ever do any exploring around saddlebag lake and the 20 lakes region? Great views and no crowds.

How about that, we have something in common. When the revolution comes I'll try to spare you :)

Patrick said...

Bobcats that live in places where people can see them are very used to seeing people. We rarely see them but they're used to us. And like with coyotes they are cautious but not afraid.

Rabid animals don't act curious. They act, well, rabid.

They are wild, but they have a lot of similarities with our domestic friends... and one of those is a strong curiosity.

It's only odd behavior if you haven't been around them enough to know what constitutes odd behavior in any given area. Suburban wild animals are living where they are at precisely because they are not afraid of people.

Cedarford said...

Well, who would have guessed. Reality Check and I have something in common. Mountain pass in California, headed down to the Salton Sea. Girlfriend asleep, BIG Mountain Lion jumped completely across the road. Cosmically "deep" experience. Like a fool I woke her up, told her what happened, she insisted on going back, getting out, and walking along the side of the road looking for it as I yelled for her to get back in.

She was unfortunately a liberal. Didn't have a lick of common sense.

A year later, some lion killed and partially ate a lady jogger down by Cuyaumaca State Park.

My scariest moment with an animal in America was with a peeved for some reason moose up in Alaska while hiking. Overseas - the cobra..

Most memorable sight was in CT of all places, cross country skiing in a snowstorm. I was in laurel and a great snowy owl well south of it's expected range flew down a lane between the laurel right at us, saw saw, put on the brakes about 10 feet away then looped up to a dead oak branch 40 feet away where it watched us until we finally decided to move on. All -absolutely-dead-silent. Not even a whisper. Not even when it had both wings totally spread open as it braked to avoid hitting us. Huge eyes and big, bright mustard yellow talons...Heck of a magnificent beastie...

But I digress.

No bobcats. That would be neat, too.

Sissy Willis said...

I've been mauled by my own fluffy pussycat, Baby Cakes -- nothing personal, just a misunderstanding. I imagine the opportunities for misunderstanding when you're face to face with a wild animal are wide open.

My point is, that you don't want to get on the wrong side of feline teeth and claws, no matter the size.

PB said...

I've seen plenty of coyotes, several bobcats, tarantulas, rattlers (one of which I nearly sat on), and a family of wild pigs while mountain biking near my home in Northern California.

However on one MTB excursion down south in the Santa Ynez mountains in Indian Valley I came around the corner on a remote single track to face a large cougar on the trail about 30 yards away. I stopped and he turned and ran down the trail around the next bend. I had just descended a couple of thousand vertical feet on an overgrown and very steep trail, and the thought of pushing my bike back up that trail with a mountain lion possibly stalking me seemed like a bad idea.

With no other option, I slowly rode down the trail and rounded the corner to see the lion standing on the trail facing me 50 feet away. He stood for a few seconds, then leapt up into the chaparral on the bank above the trail to the right. I figured the only chance I had, if he indeed intended to confront or attack me, was to startle him and use the downhill grade to get enough speed to get away, though I had no illusions that I could out sprint him. I pedaled as fast as I could down the trail and let out the most piercing scream I could muster at the spot where he disappeared. I couldn't turn to look because I was at the limit of being able to control the bike in the loose dirt, but after a while I slowed a little and looked behind me but he was nowhere to be seen.

After I was a mile or so down the trail it became obvious that I was safe and I silently congratulated myself on having survived the encounter.

My adventure was not over, however.

This was a new area for me and I was using a trail map that was either outdated or inaccurate, and I eventually tried to ride on a faint singletrack trail that supposedly would take me to the Gibraltar Reservoir and then to Paradise Road back to my campground.

The trail disappeared after a while so I figured I would bushwack to the reservoir and pick it up there again, since the alternative was to backtrack a long ways back to the Camuesa Road (a remote dirt fireroad) and then climb a couple of thousand feet over a saddle and then descend back down to my camp.

There was water in a shallow stream bed so I started to follow it in the direction I thought the reservoir was. I was in a flat swampy basin and it was a tough slog through waist deep water, and long stretches of river bed cobbles which I rode as much as possible, but ended up carrying my bike mostly.

It was November and by now the sun was pretty low and to my horror I finally came upon a section of stream bed with enough of a grade to detect a current and discovered I was moving upstream. I was going in the wrong direction.

The thought of spending a long cold night soaked to the skin in a swamp with a puma lurking somewhere was overwhelming, so I started to retrace my steps. I was pretty frantic and was pushing myself to the limit trying to get back to the fireroad before darkness set in.

I got back to the fireroad with just enough light but the junction with the Cameusa Road was only a mile or two from where I saw the cougar and by the time I got there it was dark. There was a little moonlight as I started the climb, but every time the road passed through the trees is was pitch dark and I braced myself for the impact of the cat jumping me, and cursed myself for my self congratulations earlier in having escaped him.

I finally crested the summit thoroughly spent and shivered with cold descending back down to my RV at the Upper Oso campground. I told the ranger about my encounter with the cat in Indian Valley and he said that recently two women on horseback reported a mountain lion shadowing them parallel to the trail in the same vicinity.

Oligonicella said...

Agree with Patrick, this animal wasn't sick, it was curious.

I've had the same experience with a hawk and a ten or so point buck. It's very two sided.

As for it's potential, anything that can take down a deer is something to respect greatly.

Paul is a Hermit said...

I remember as a boy, reading a famed outdoors man's column, Jack O'Conner and he put it this way, "The mountain lion is a slob, the bobcat a feline buzz saw."
Never forgot that.

Anthony said...

Probably about 15 years ago, the U of Washington did some genetic experiments that involved breeding some domestic housecats with some form of South American wildcat (about the size of a bobcat, I guess, not like jaguar-sized). Anyway, they had no use for the males, so they adopted them out to the local community in Seattle, and they were about 30 pounds. At least one person let hers wander around outside and she had to warn neighbors when her cat was stalking their dogs.

Chrees said...

The age of the critter can sometimes make a difference. I've found the younger ones have more curiousity than the older ones...not always but sometimes Got a nice dispaly of that the same day recently.

On a Point Reyes trail I saw what I thought was a dog trotting down the towards me. As it got closer I realized it was a young coyote. I whipped out my camcorder and filmed it as it trotted went right past me. Once my breathing slowed down I realized I forgot to take the lens cap off. So all I got was a distant shot of it once I corrected the problem.

About 2 miles later a full adult coyote crossed over a hill, saw me and froze. As did I. After just a couple of seconds, he bounded into some thick underbrush. Fortunately that was it for the day, but that was more than enough for me.

Anthony said...

I whipped out my camcorder and filmed it as it trotted went right past me. Once my breathing slowed down I realized I forgot to take the lens cap off.

I thought this scenario only applied to Bigfoot and Loch Ness monster sightings. . . .

BrianOfAtlanta said...

My dad has a story from when we were living in Glacier NP. He was checking out the campground across the road when rounding a bend he almost ran into a bobcat sitting on a downed tree. The trunk was horizontal, about 4 ft off the ground and directly underneath it was a snowshoe hare. It was a perfect Mexican standoff. If the cat jumped down off the log, the hare would bolt in the other direction and if the hare bolted the cat would be on top of it. The hare saw Dad, but the cat was oblivious. Dad figured this would be a real good opportunity to catch a snowshoe hare bare-handed. He lunged for the hare, the hare bolted, and the cat, suddenly aware of my dad, took off in another direction. The hare got away, Dad got a face full of snow kicked up when the hare took off, and the cat ended up with a good scare. Dad says there's probably a lesson somewhere in all that, but he can't figure out what it is.

Revenant said...

I hadnt seen Fred's post, but he raises a really good point: an animal that lacks a fear of humans is quite possibly sick.

Depends on where you are. Here in southern California we have a lot of wild predators living right among all the residential areas, in the canyons and undeveloped spaces. I used to see coyotes all the time when I was a UCSD student. They aren't afraid of humans -- not because they're sick, but because they see humans every day doing whatever incomprehensible things it is that we're doing.

If you were out in Yosemite and encountered a fearless predator, though... yeah, you might want to worry.

justkim said...

The house DH (aka Icepick) and I are renting (in Orlando, FL) backs onto a wetland (i.e., swamp). We have been lucky enough to see all sorts of wildlife: rabbits, raccoons, armadillos, a great horned owl, a harrier hawk, sandhill cranes, squirrels, etc. Well, one day, sometime in late last fall, I happened to look out our back window and see something move. I thought perhaps a neighbor’s dog had gotten loose. I kept watching and it turned out to be a bobcat! Right there in my back yard! It was a beautiful day; we had the windows open and one of my housecats was perched in the windowsill. She got very quiet and very still as she watched the bobcat pass through. I said, as quietly as I could and still be heard, “[Icepick], I need you to look out the window. Right. Now.” The bobcat heard me and froze briefly and turned and looked at us before it casually sauntered off into our swamp. My cat then fluffed her tail, hopped off the windowsill, and hid in the bedroom for a while.

The bobcat really was the cutest thing: about the size of a large cocker spaniel, beautiful tawny color, salmon-colored nose. Yes, I really felt the urge to say “Here kitty, kitty.” But I didn’t.

Gahrie said...

I live on the side of a hill in an area going from semi-developed to totally developed.

I see possums and coyotes on a regular basis. (I've had to evict possums from my garage, and once a mom and offspring from under my couch!)

Four years ago I had a fox give birth and wean a pup in my back yard.

I used to get skunks, but I think the possums ran them off.

Nature, and animals, adapt to the environment.

MadisonMan said...

A close neighbor has a very fast dog that catches and kills rabbits in their yard. They throw the dead rabbits over the back fence into the cemetery. The carcass is invariably gone by morning, from the coyotes in the cemetery. I saw a coyote on Whitney Way once.

When I was a boy scout, we were hiking 50 miles on the Appalachian Trail. My friend Dan and I had fallen behind the other hikers, when we heard a very odd rustling noise ahead. Being behind Dan, I urged him to keep going, as we really were pretty far behind everyone else. But first he threw a nice big stick up ahead, and that scared the 6-foot rattler off.

Alcibiades said...

Hoosier Daddy,

Playing dead only works on brown bears (Grizzlies and such). You have to hit black bears on their nose/snout.

RHodnett said...

Not a wild cat story, but...

A group of friends and I were kayaking on a river mainly fed by snowmelt on one of the first sunny days of Spring some years ago. One guy noticed what seemed to be the dead body of a rattlesnake floating nearby, so he fished it out of the water with his paddle and dropped it on the front deck of his boat to take a closer look. We all moved in to view the body, but soon went back to our previous chit-chat. The guy with the snake got distracted by the person he was talking to, and then he noticed the rattlesnake start to twitch. The snake hadn't drowned at all; apparently its coldblooded nature had kicked in while it was in the cold water, and lying in the sun on the boat's deck was reviving it. In the frenzy of thrashing about and yelling that followed, the snake was quickly dumped back into the river.

4virginia said...

somebody I met was driving the Blueridge Parkway in Virginia when he[she came up to stopped traffic with people standing out of their cars. This person got out of the car and noticed a small bear cub in the road. The bear cub then ran down the road and stopped right in front of her/him, and stood up on its hide feet. The bear cub looked so cute that this person tried to pet it, got bit on the hand and then the cub ran off. Rabies shots.