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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You'll never guess who visited!

A very handsome feline received word that it was the Year of the Bobcat at my house, and he ambled down our driveway last night. My wildlife camera captured his muscular and agile body. The black spots on his tawny fur almost certainly help him blend into our rocky meadows. The stripes on the inside of his front leg look like an elegant fashion statement!
As you can see from the wider view, he walked through our gates and down our driveway. Despite extensive searching, I couldn't find where his tracks led from there.
I decided to mount a wildlife camera by the gate based on a scent post that I noticed in late December. It looked like the descriptions of bobcat's markings that I've read in scientific books. The scent post is next to the fence that's behind the bobcat in the photo. One of the things that I love about wildlife cameras is learning whether my interpretations of nature's elusive signs are right or not. In this case, I think that I was right!

It is, for sure, the Year of the Bobcat!

Today, K and I wandered our forest. After each of these surgeries that forces me to break my regular routine, I find new facets of life that I enjoy. In this case, I'm learning that I love exploring the woods on foot, off-trail, searching for animal signs. K and I barely set paw on a trail today, as we followed old animal tracks through the forest.

First, we headed in the general direction of Hug Hill and the second cache location for the mountain lion's deer carcass that I blogged about earlier. I gazed into the woods and thought "if I were a wild animal, I'd go that way to link up with another, rarely used, human trail". No tracks led me into the woods, I just wandered, pretending that I was an animal who wanted to stay hidden. K's head appears in the lower left corner of the photo, as she briefly led the way as we plunged into the dark woods.
As we walked through dense pine trees, we caught a glimpse of the mountains. We've never seen them from this spot before.
Then, voila, huge melted out tracks appeared, with the spacing and straddle to be our lion's. The tracks were very old, probably a couple of weeks had passed since the animal left them, so I felt no worry about following them.
We followed them around juniper bushes, over small rocks, through some deeper snow, and finally emerged in a brighter spot. To catch the sunlight, I took the photo at an angle that shows the tracks going from left to right.
While I took that photo, K decided that it was the perfect time for a snow-wriggle, giving me a strong signal that the scents of scary animals were not in the air.
After following the tracks for some distance, we stumbled into the small clearing that was the second hiding place for the deer carcass. Nary a hint remains of the carnage that once lay here. It felt mysterious and wonderful to have followed the lion's route to this spot. I used my 'tracking' function on my GPS so that I can upload his routes to my computer and see them on topo maps. One of my goals is to have a local map full of animal routes, so I can see how the predators and prey move through the landscape, avoiding one another but, as my mountain lion posts show, sometimes colliding.

Then, we used a human trail for a little while to climb to Hug Hill. It was still and breath-takingly beautiful.
I couldn't blame K for wanting to look at the mountains rather than at me!
It was so warm in the sun that we sat and enjoyed the day. I'm thankful that we are both capable of climbing to our little peak and rejoicing in nature. I think that K and I are healing in parallel.
As we cut cross-country down from the peak, we found our lion's tracks again. They were weeks old, so we followed. At first, the ponderosa pine trees stood far apart, making walking easy for us and the lion.
Soon, however, the forest became denser and downed trees blocked the path. I've read, based on scientists' observations, that a cougar will almost always choose to go under an obstacle rather than over it when traveling slowly. Here, he met a tree in his path. It's hard to get perspective from the photo but there was little doubt that he stepped up onto the tree and hopped down on the other side. He was a big cougar, and perhaps the 18" under the tree weren't enough for him, particularly if his belly bulged with meat.
Just like the previous tracks, these ones led us to the exact spot where the lion had cached his deer for the second time. His tracks tell us that he took forays in all directions from the carcass, either going to nearby daybeds or starting the hunt for his next prey.

Near the very end of our hike, the snow crystals glittered in the sun in a beguiling way. The tiny aspen twigs peeking out from the snow give a hint of the life that the snow is nourishing. Spring will be here before we know it!
Most of all, I realized today that I'm learning to enjoy a slower pace during my recovery. K and I are investigating nooks and crannies of our mountain landscape that we had no knowledge of before. In every set-back, like my back surgery, there is opportunity to grow and change.

For those of you who have expressed interest in knowing more about what's up with my back, I've included a post about it below. It's a bit dry - but it tells the story.


  1. I'm not a religious person but I do believe that we can find a reason for everything that happens - and it sure seems like K's ailment came at perhaps the "best" time, if it indeed had to happen. If that makes sense.

    That bobcat is quite impressive! As I've said before, you are so lucky to share your home with such creatures.

    PS - I've heard of Constructional Aggression Treatment a little bit, but don't know much about it. Perhaps its worth looking into. Thanks!

  2. Geez, K looks so ribby in that wiggling picture. I'm glad she is getting stronger, though.

  3. Year of the Bobcat, indeed. I think that is an excellent sign for you!

  4. Khyra really thinks she could have some fun with 'Bob'

    Thanks for sharing those shots!

    Off to read the other post - I'm quite interested in seeing it!

  5. Thank you for sharing your pictures and sharing your experiences while hiking through the countryside. I've only seen a bobcat a couple times while mountain biking, but it was very far away and my little point and shoot camera didn't do it justice.


  6. Wow, that bobcat is quite impressive!!! And what great timing:)

    It was very interesting walking along with you and K and seeing things through your eyes. We are so glad you are finding ways to still enjoy the outdoors that you love.

    The description of your surgery just increases our admiration for your courage.

  7. What a beautiful cat. It's as though he came by for you. I can't wait to hear more about your animal routes topo!

  8. What a treat to see the bobcat photo!
    You truly live in a winter wonderland!

  9. Hi KB - So much to enjoy in this post - the view from Hug Hill, your tracking route through the forest, and that awesome visitor in the night! Thanks for taking me along!

  10. Beautiful photo, KB...great observations to be able to pick out a scent post! Every day when I'm out in OUR neck of the woods I think of how many things you'd see that I'm missing because I'm focusing almost entirely on either the pups or the scenery :D Once you are ready to travel I'll bring you and K over here to do some detective work :)
    Big hug your way!

  11. The bobcat seems like a good omen to me. For taking life at a slower pace, you and K sure seem to have packed a lot in!

    It is nice to enjoy a change of pace once in a while, although I understand that it's better when you get to choose it on your own.

  12. I love that the Bobcat dropped in on you . . .Beautiful post today, great pictures as usual.

    You sound very UP and I hope you get even UPPER!

    Cheers and hugs,
    Jo and Stella

  13. Very cool Bobcat! It must be so interesting to see and experience so much wildlife and scenic beauty!

    I'm glad you and K are healing so nicely together! Remember to rest in there too!


  14. beautiful photos....i love your idea of tracking and uploading animal routes into your computer! i read about your surgery, thanks for quite a perspective to what you are dealing with...
    i think you and K have found the perfect activity to get in your walks and explore your beautiful space....lucky us to be able to go with you as you track the beautiful bobcat!
    him walking down your drive is certainly a sign....beautiful animal!

  15. It is amazing how appropriate 'Year of the Bobcat' is turning out to be.
    Another beautiful post today, very uplifting. Keep positive.

  16. Woof! Woof! Gee that's a big Bobcat!!! LOVE the photos. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

  17. AMAzing that there is so much wildlife to investigate! How wonderful that a bobcat actually came visiting - so magical and totally perfect! Your knowledge of animals in the wild as well as their tracks and the woods themselves is staggering. Before you mentioned the GPS, I was going to ask if you were using one - so easy to get lost in big BLM-type land - but then you mentioned programming tracks into one - that must be an amazing thing to be able to do!??? I'm off now to read about your op - take care of yourself!
    Hugs xo
    Sammie and Sammie's mom

  18. Love the bobcat photo! So glad you're getting out and about and that K seems to be doing well, too!

  19. You sound so good in this post! I sure wish you could box up some of your attitude and ship it my way.

    I love the projects you come up with. I think they are fascinating. It's fun following along with your inquisitive, curious, loves to discover and learn, and share with others mind.

  20. Your wildlife camera is producing some really eye-opening images for us. Your tracking skills add great detail and texture to the stories.

    I don't run the trails in nearly the same way. It feels like I've been awakened to something important.


  21. Wow you live in such a beautiful and amazing place - the most interesting animal that comes down our driveway is a duck once in a while.

    And I am not too surprised that cougars go under things - I find even my housecats will do the same thing when they are "stalking" something or if they are nervous - they also will walk very low to the ground. It sounds like something all sizes of cats do.

    And it sounds like you and K are really improving - this sounds like a much more vigorous walk if you were going off the trail for so long. That is very good news!

  22. Amazing strutting bobcat photo!
    I'm so happy to hear you're able to browse and explore the woods in a new way, making the best of a bad situation. I am very impressed you're able to get out as much you are so soon after the surgery and with the amount of pain you must be feeling.
    I wonder if the lion was tracking you like you it (I always wonder that with a smile when I have my head to the ground following tracks).


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