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Sunset, Playtime, & Bobcats

by Deborah Roy 8 months ago in Nature

My Magical Experience with a Bobcat Family

Bobcat plays with its catch prior to walking off into the brush.

Ever been in a funk? As a wildlife photographer there are times when you begin to feel like you are not seeing anything new or exciting to photograph. Then there is social media . . . these lulls can cause a great deal of anxiety and/or depression, especially when you get on social media sites and view the amazing images other photographers are capturing. It can be tough to break through these times and emerge with a fresh perspective and positive outlook. I could see and feel this beginning in me, so one weekend my husband and I decided to take a trip south to the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in search of wintering and resident birds. The mild temperatures and freshwater impoundments of the refuge provide habitats that support a diverse wildlife population, as well as many photography opportunities.

After spending the first morning photographing a wide variety of birds including, Northern Harriers, warblers, waterfowl, and Osprey, we took a break, got some lunch, and then in late afternoon, we set out for a hike just prior to sunset.

We choose a trail located in an area that was not traveled much, but we were now walking directly into the sun. This can make it hard to see what is in front of you. The sun was low and extremely harsh, but still a gorgeous walk through the tall shiny, green grass of the trail.

Coming around a bend in the trail, we spotted a bobcat, no two bobcats, no wait . . . three bobcats! It was a family, about 50 yards away. They appeared to be a mom with two nearly full-grown kittens. In the past, I had only seen individual bobcats, so this was very exciting! My husband was behind me and I turned back to look at him and just smiled. I know he was excited to see them as well but probably even more excited to see that smile on my face.

I slowly dropped to my knees. I was very still. I don't think I even took a breath. There was a big chance the bobcat family would leave due to our presence and I didn't want to make any sudden movements and appear as a threat to them. The family briefly looked our way, but then continued to go about their activities, glancing over at us every now and then.

The sun was very low in the sky, so bright. Almost blinding to look through the camera at times. This made the bobcat family very backlit. The photographer in me wished I was on the other side of this family, with the sun on their faces, but I tried to let that go and just enjoy the experience I was given. While the mom and one sibling relaxed in the brush on one right side of the trail, the other sibling joyfully tossed his prey up in the air, leaping after it over-and-over again. Sometimes catching it, sometimes missing it. Twisting and turning. Jumping and pouncing. Practicing those critical hunting skills that this kitten will need when it soon leaves mom so she can have another liter. This playful activity went on for at least 20 minutes. Raw nature. Most of the time, I just sat and watched them, not even taking photos, just watching in amazement. One note. I did think about the prey. The empath in me couldn’t help but go there. I could clearly see that the prey, which I believe was a vole, was no longer alive.

Bobcats are very elusive animals and while sightings by humans are rare, humans are their largest threat. Trapping for fur, land development, and over-hunting are some of the human activities that have hurt bobcat populations. In some areas of the United States, these human behaviors, as well as deliberate persecution of the bobcat, has eliminated them from those areas altogether.

They are usually nocturnal, hunting mainly at dusk and dawn, but can be seen hunting at any time of the day or night. They can adapt to a variety of habitats, including brushland, forests, semi-deserts, forests, swaps, mountains, and suburban areas. As humans, we need to learn to coexist with them. They have an important role in our ecosystem and their presence matters. Changing the perception that the presence of a wild animal in the same environment as a human is a negative thing is so important. This negative perception often causes that animal to be removed from its territory and often killed.

The experience was one of the most magical times I have ever had with wildlife. Just thinking about it and looking at the images brings back wonderful feelings and memories and even makes the hair on my arms stand up! The family was aware of my presence, but they accepted me. I did not disturb this playful behavior. They let me into their world and into their home. I was able to witness the playful side of this beautiful animal without changing their behavior. Above all, I was able to get out of “my funk” and once again appreciate and cherish the time that I get to spend in nature, including those wonderful moments watching the birds, squirrels, and rabbits in my backyard. Watching their behavior helps me see how every minute of their day is spent in the moment, not comparing themselves with others and not even thinking about if tomorrow will be better than today, or even if tomorrow will come. Just taking life as it comes and living every moment to its fullest.


Deborah Roy

Read next: Your relationship to a special tree, park bench, or outdoor spot

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