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Thursday, September 15, 2011

A bobcat and kitten saga

I arrived at my trail camera the other day to find a fascinating series of photos. First, I saw that the mother bobcat who we've seen on numerous occasions in photos walked along the path and then took an abrupt turn up a steep embankment.
A few minutes later, the lagging kitten walked along, looking fragile and very spotted compared to his mother. The surprising part was that he didn't follow her route up the hill. He continued on the animal path.
It took only a few steps before it appeared that he knew that he'd lost her trail. His nose went to the ground, searching for her scent.
The kitten disappeared out of view of the camera, using an odd slinking gait. Maybe the gait reflected fear because he'd lost his mother's trail? Just a guess.

The next photo was about 45 minutes later, when the kitten came down the slope from the direction where his mother had first disappeared. He seemed to be alone. However, remember that his mother might have been just outside the view of the camera, moving in parallel with the kitten. That's the frustrating part of interpreting trail camera photos - you have no idea what's going on just outside the view of the camera.
A close-up of the kitten...
Late that afternoon, the kitten showed up at the same spot again. This time, he headed straight up the hill in the direction that his mother had climbed earlier that morning. Now, I was puzzled. Was he still searching for his mother? Alternatively, was his mother hanging out up the hill for some reason? Or, was his mother traveling with him but just out of view of the camera? Questions and curiosity...
Zoom in...
I couldn't resist checking the camera this morning, even though we had a deluge of frigid rain overnight, and I usually get no trail camera photos in terrible weather. Indeed, that pattern held. Consequently, I have no more insight to share about what is going on with the bobcat mother and kitten.

I wonder if this mother bobcat is the one who we saw photos of back in mid-March, traveling with another adult bobcat, likely a mate. If that's true, then the kitten was probably born in late May and is close to 4 months old now. I've read that bobcat kittens start traveling with their mothers on some hunts when they are about 3 months old. That timing fits with approximately when I captured my first bobcat kitten photos. Usually, a bobcat kitten stays close by his mother's side for 6 months or so. Then, according to biologists, the kitten starts hunting more independently within the mother's territory for several months - getting some help from the mother bobcat if they have a bad hunting phase. Finally, sometime before the kitten is a year old, he disperses from his mother's territory to find his own stomping grounds.

All of that means that we should be seeing this kitten traveling closely with his mother again. It's not time for him to become independent yet.

I've compiled all the photos from the past couple of days into a flipbook video which you can view here or at Youtube.

In the meantime, the stormy weather continues but K and I went for a mountain bike ride anyway. My happy girl led the way into the clouds.


  1. Wonderful story, wonderful photos. Keep working the trail, the snow is coming your way. The higher elevations have snow on them this morning.

    Mogley G. Retriever

  2. Fascinating story. We can't wait to see more of the adventure of the little one.

    What a great closing shot!

  3. Hi Y'all,

    I'm really curious about the kitten and mom. Hope y'all get more pics of them soon, and they offer further info on whether the kitten is learning to hunt and mom is just out of sight.

    Sigh. What a wonderful ride! I love runs and walks into the mist or clouds. It changes everything around, even the way things sound, or don't sound. :)

    Y'all come by now,
    Hawk aka BrownDog

  4. I hope we get to see the mom and kitten together again. You are right to remind us what might be happening just beyond the camera range.

    Great shot of K running in the mist.

  5. I am keepin' my paws crossed fur da baby kitteh, I sure hopes he/she finds his momma. :) Great foto of K leadin' da way!

    Woofs and Licks,
    Maggie Mae

  6. Nice series of pictures! Perhaps the momma is teaching junior to hunt....and making him/her work at it alittle bit!

    Great, great shots of a kitten!!!

  7. I hope you'll be able to find the answer over the next few days. I am hoping that perhaps, like you said, the mother may be out of the view of the camera??? but odd that it would happen so many times.

  8. Spectacular photo of K running into the misty forest, KB! Raining here, too, with snow on the peaks. I loved seeing your Bobcat footage.

  9. I hope the kitten learns to stick closer to its mother! I'd hate to think about it getting lost or hurt.

    I love K's enthusiasm! I don't think it's possible to not smile when looking at her!

  10. Could there be two kittens? One goes up where the Mother is, but we don't see that, and then we see him come down the path she climbed.



  11. Can't wait to see more pics & videos of that little baby!

  12. Interesting series. I agree with Trailblazer. I think mom is starting to make the kitten work a little bit.

  13. That's a great mystery story in photos! But I like your interpretations. I tend to think the kitten's movements are a bit erratic because it's missing mom, a bit panicky. Can't wait to see if you capture them again, reunited!

  14. Gosh! I sure hope that kitten gets back with it's mom. You are right, she is too little to be on her own.

    Mango Momma


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