Before our latest bout of warm (40-50F) temperatures, rain, and general dreary February melting, I got out on the coldest weekend of the “winter” so far. It was a weekend that included wind chills down to -30F with highs not much higher than 0F: a perfect day to get a concentrated dose of winter after a certain lack of it thus far.
I was determined to cross country ski. It is my favorite winter activity (well, tied with skating on remote ponds and meandering brooks and sledding) and I was sick of not being able to play outdoors. Even though we only had about four inches of snow in most places, I thought it would be worth the try. There was certainly less snow in the woods—I frequently had to lift one leg or the other to avoid exposed rocks and roots. The open parts had more snow, yet many rocks and patches of grass stopped me quickly. I laughed out loud there alone on my skiing adventure at the silliness of it all.
Just when I was about to turn around, acknowledging that my skis were probably not finding the experience as silly as I was, I saw some bobcat tracks. As I continued along the trail, I saw more and more bobcat tracks following, then crisscrossing the trail. Either this was one active bobcat, confused about where it might find food or wildly searching for a mate, or a few bobcats.
“On snow-covered ground the bobcat’s track looks like that of a greatly oversized house cat. The impression of one foot is about two inches long and one and three-quarters inches wide, up to a maximum of two and one quarter by two inches. The footprints are rounded and placed nearly in a straight line, one ahead of the other.” –Victor H. Cahalane, Mammals of North America
I was excited to see such clear and easy to identify tracks. Bobcats are one of the few creatures whose tracks I have seen relatively frequently, but whose physical presence I have never actually witnessed.
“Almost invariably it will detect the approach of any invader, quietly leave its resting place, and silently retreat without ever being seen. It is so successful at keeping out of sight that few persons are ever aware of its presence.” –Victor H. Cahalane, Mammals of North America
New Hampshire has now approved making rules for bobcat hunting again, because apparently their populations have rebounded enough to allow 50 or so bobcats to be killed annually. See NH Fish and Game’s status on it here. For an article that covers more of the controversy of this proposal, see the Boston Globe’s article here.
I (sarcastically) wish these bobcat hunters luck:
“When cornered or attacked by enemies, it becomes a different creature, a wild demon with unlimited courage. It screams, growls, spits, hisses, makes horrible faces and tries to scratch out the eyes and every other part of the enemy’s anatomy.” –Victor H. Cahalane, Mammals of North America