Photos and text copyright Romping and Rolling in the Rockies 2009-2017.

All photographs and text within this blog are copyrighted.

You may not copy or repost any photos or text without specific permission from the author of this blog. When in doubt, please ask.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The bobcat spirit

It felt as if I'd truly climbed onto a roller-coaster yesterday. By the time I posted, my mind was swirling. The good news is that although R seems subdued, he also seems to be mending. He's eating, albeit with less enthusiasm than normal, but I imagine that a deer hoof in your stomach can wreak havoc! Thank goodness that his purple octopus always stays by his side.
Yesterday, my friend Stella posted two beautiful icons, available for people to copy to their blogs, to represent the Year of the Bobcat. I felt honored and thrilled that others saw meaning in my notion of trying to emulate a bobcat's resilience and flexibility in the coming year. One appears in the upper right corner of my blog.

To my surprise, in the past few days, I had the honor of capturing images of yet another bobcat. He visited the boulder where I have a camera set up to record video, using infrared lighting, at night.

This morning, inspired by our new bobcat video, K and I started our hike by searching the boulder outcroppings surrounding our huge meadow for more bobcat tracks or scent posts. I'm learning that these cats like to patrol the edges of meadows and prefer the bases of overhanging boulders as their scent posts. A scent post consists of a scraping of dirt or leaves into a small pile using the hind feet and then a scat left atop the pile.

We crossed the meadow in the tracks of a lone mule deer. Deer drag their hooves, even in shallow snow, leaving tracks that look almost like cross-country ski tracks.
K led the way up a jumble of boulders and stopped to look down at me, barely visible against the snow-covered boulders.
Then, she spontaneously decided to sprint to me, sending snow crystals flying into the air.
She's not really supposed to be sprinting through deep snow yet. After all, she has a 12" incision on her belly that's healing. So, I put her on leash for a while after that wild outburst. I'm glad that she feels so good!

In our wanderings, we found a new bobcat scent post at the base of a tall rock wall. A small area of dirt remained protected from heavy snow by the overhanging wall. And, I found bobcat scat and a scraping in that prime dirt spot. I'm going to keep an eye on it to see if it's active before deciding whether to move a camera there.
Someone recently asked if I'd move a camera to the spot where K spooked the other day to try to get a lion photo. I'm finding it to be challenging to figure out where to best capture a lion photo when there's no focal point like a carcass. I know the lions' general routes but I find that they can use any path within about a 50 yard swath of their route. That's too wide to for me to have high odds of getting a photo. Pointing a camera at a scent post would be ideal. I actually know where there is a scent post, on a seldom-used trail beneath a cliff on a north-facing slope. However, I'm not physically capable of scrambling through the snow to visit it now. I'll save that one for spring-time.

The one other lead that I have is that lions mark their routes by scratching bark from pine trees - it's another way of broadcasting their ownership of the territory. I've found a multitude of scratched trees, with blankets of pine bark beneath the scratchings, next to the old lion tracks that I've recently been exploring. However, I suspect that those routes were used only briefly, while the lion fed on the deer carcass, so they're not good camera locations. Despite scouring the forest, I haven't found any other lion-scratched trees yet. I'm looking!

Today, after reconnoitering bobcat habitat, K and I climbed to Hug Hill, where the mountains glowed with new snow. The snow billowed off the peaks in alpine winds, and a spindrift rose above the peaks in the right half of the photo below. It's a plume of snow being sucked upward into the atmosphere by complicated pressure and wind patterns.
I promised myself - no Hug Hill photos of K because my readers must be getting tired of them - but then she made me break my promise by looking so beautiful to my eyes.
After enjoying our favorite local peak, we plunged uneventfully down a north-facing slope. Now, we hiked in lion territory. If I'm distilling one pattern from my explorations, it's that bobcats like boulders next to meadows and lions like snowy north-facing slopes. As I thought about that pattern, K freaked out, barking and growling while staring up the slope.
I stared, trying to discern any movement or other suspicious signs. For a minute, I saw nothing. Then, a female blue grouse marched along a contour on the slope. I watched even longer because K's behavior was out of proportion for a grouse but I didn't see any predator stalking it. The grouse isn't visible in the photo below. The photo simply shows the forest, with its multitude of hiding places, that I stared into for minutes trying to figure out what provoked K to be so aggressively protective.
We headed home from there, ready to face civilization. I had a bounce in my step, knowing how well my neck is healing even though the rehabilitation road ahead is still long and hard to visualize. It's odd, however, because my neck hurts more now than earlier in the recovery. No one but me seems concerned about this oddity so I'm trying not to worry about it. It's definitely true that I am more active than I was in the first week after surgery, which could be contributing. However, the mantra of my medical advisers is that more activity is better, as long as I'm not bungee jumping, ice skating, or snow biking. I'll just keep on hiking and learning more about the nooks and crannies of my forest than I ever thought I'd know.

Here's to the Year of the Bobcat! Thanks for the icon and encouragement, Stella.


  1. Sheesh, miss one post, and so much happens. So glad to hear the good news about your bones - that must be so encouraging. And poor R, so glad things are looking good, but that must have been so scary for you.

    We have our icon posted on our blog too.

    Now on to the start of a long stretch of only good news.

  2. Bummer on the bungee jumping...

    Thanks for the cool khytty video!

    Khyra really thinks Bob would agree to be her pal!

    We are hoping all three of you continue with steady recoveries!

  3. Great post, KB! I was mostly eager to hear how R was doing and it sounds good too. Yes, that sharp little hoof must have hurt. As a kid, we had a lab who had to spend an afternoon in the basement, and while there, he found a box of Christmas ornaments which he pulled to the floor, and ate a couple of glass balls. Other than having some of the sparkliest poops around, there was no harm done to the boy. So they are mighty as far as their stomachs go!

    Cheers and hugs,

    Jo and Stella

  4. Hey there KB
    ...a few things:
    * We are so really happy that both R and you are on the mend...excellent news!
    * I had to laugh when I read about the leaf pile and the scat...Do you know that Max does this? He doesn't exactly 'make' the leaf pile, but will only 'do his business' on the very top of leaf piles, highish foliage or clumps of cacti. I can't make sense of it. It's really funny...if he chooses a tree, he'll almost climb the tree backwards in his attempt to get his own 'scat' as close to the bark as possible! Any answers to this perplexing behaviour?
    * Our many varieties of wild life here mark their territories in so many interesting ways.. Rhinos have 'middens' and will also scratch the bark off trees (like numerous other animals) with their backsides...Elephants have 'graveyards'... our cats behave like yours etc etc (not to mention territorial birds!)

    Take care and look after yourself. We think of you all the time.

  5. KB......I do declare I've missed enough to make a good book this month on your blog!!
    First....thank goodness you and R are on the mend!Hope you both continue to improve! The videos are just awesome!! The photos are fabulous too! I envy your connection to such raw nature!
    I'll try not to miss so much again.
    You really should write a book about your adventures in nature!
    I'm having some nerve problems myself as I'm having a stinging numbness in my left hand and my ring and pinkie fingers are totally numb. Guess I need to make an appointment with the doctor huh?

  6. KB, so much to see and learn in one post! I'm curious, have you learned about "your" animals and how to read their tracks through your excursions with later book work? Is it information that was passed on to you?

    I'm excited (and ready) to adopt the year of the bobcat. . .

  7. You can never post enough photos of the labraduo in the snow and you can keep on telling everyone that you've got a bounce in your step. The combination produces a lot of smiles.

  8. I never get tired of pictures of K or R! Post away!

    Have you considered a career as a wildlife documentarian? You're certainly good at it! I can't wait to read your blog every day and find out what sort of adventures you and the labraduo have encountered, and you have amazing photography skills and instincts.

    Poor R! There's nothing more pitiful than a puppy who doesn't feel well! Give the little guy a hug and kiss from us. I'm glad he's on the mend, along with K!

  9. Tired of photo's of K? That'll be the day !

    As for your neck hurting, could that be the reaction felt as bone is knitting together?

    And, I am curious as to why deer drag their hoofs in the snow?

    I love going to nature school at your place :)

  10. Max,

    It's said that, in wild animals, they try to leave their scent as high as possible so that the wind will carry it further. However, most canines don't do that with their scat, only their urine. So, I don't know why you do what you do... Maybe you have a little feline blood in you?

  11. Many people asked how I've learned about tracks and nature. It's been entirely through books and my time in forests and mountains. My camera has helped immensely. I can photograph something puzzling and then go home to peruse my books to figure out what animal might have left the sign.

    I'd love to find someone who really knows about this stuff and would teach me. I bet that people like that exist but I haven't met them yet.

    And, I don't know why deer drag their hooves. Elk do too. They seem so agile that you'd think that they'd walk elegantly. I've wondered about this for a long time.

    And, to all who asked, R seems like his normal high energy self again!!! Thanks for asking.


If you are a Blogger registered user, you can skip the step asking you to verify that you are not a spammer. For posts older than 5 days, I have comment moderation turned on.

Thanks for your comments!!!!!