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.