I’ve gotten quite accustomed to seeing and distinguishing between fox and coyote tracks, weasel tracks, hare tracks, moose and deer tracks, and other relatively common tracks that show up in the places I tend to live. However, wild cats are a much more elusive category of mammals whose tracks I have rarely seen.
Yesterday, as the realization of my busy yet blissful grad school break coming to an end showered me with feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed, I decided to get out into the woods instead of going to the library in the afternoon while my landlord was fixing a hole in the ceiling of my apartment. I submitted an internship application in the morning, ate a quick lunch, then Joe and I tossed our cross country skis and poles into the car and headed for Pisgah State Park. While there wasn’t as much snow as is ideal for cross country skiing (about 3 inches, max…), there was a protective little crust of ice as a base layer that kept rocks and dirt at bay, somewhat.
We zoomed down hills and struggled on the light, slick snow going up hills and only saw one woman with her dog and a group of three four-wheelers (we smelled them before we saw them; the woods were permeated with the smell of hot dogs cooking on a propane stove on the back of their vehicles).
We took a rather narrow, very forested trail back and struggled with the technicalities involved when avoiding large rocks, closely growing trees, and narrow, damaged bridges while wearing long planks on our feet… Due to all this focus, I noticed some very clear tracks crossing the trail–not blown in with snow or melted out.
I immediately recognized these tracks to be cat tracks due to their round, yet asymmetrical nature and the lack of visible claw marks. Since the last cat tracks I spent time observing were Mountain Lion tracks in Wyoming a year ago (see my post: Tracks from a Most Elusive Creature for more details on cat tracks and information about that adventure), and before that were Lynx tracks in Northern Maine, these struck me as remarkably small–an observation which made me sure that they were indeed bobcat tracks.
There’s nothing like getting out in the woods to dry you off from your shower of stress!
For more information on the differences between canine and feline tracks, check out Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources website. This page from “bear-tracker.com” also gives some great detail about bobcats and their tracks.