Trapping season for bobcats and martens is over! Living here, it seems wildlife never get a break. Between hunting, collaring, trapping, logging, snowmobiling, ATV’s, there’s always some disturbance, sometimes quite major like hunting, that is going on. Cougar hunting is still on till the end of this month, although we have almost no snow and black bear spring hunt season begins soon.
Regardless, I have been worried that I haven’t seen any bobcat prints in the usual spots all winter. Bobcat trapping is becoming of major concern because pelts are fetching up to $1000. The Chinese and Russian market in particular are driving the prices, and every Tom, Dick and Harry is trapping the cats. A big story out in the California desert is trappers who are scanning the internet for bobcat pictures unsuspecting amateur photographers post, then placing traps right outside these people’s backyards. Other trappers are putting tons of leg hold traps on the border of Joshua Tree National Monument.
Although the rabbit populations are down in the desert, they are not doing so bad up here. The cottontails are beginning to rebound, and the snowshoe hare population seems to be doing just fine. But where are the bobcats?
So I was happy when right after a fresh snow the other day I came across this bobcat trail.
I tracked the fellow for over two hours and let me tell you it was strenuous. He seemed to be on a mission, heading directly, and mostly at a trot, up the steep slopes until finally, once high up, he stopped to stand on a boulder and look down over the valley.
Then he made a sharp left and zigged and zagged even higher up. As the snow got patchier with the daytime temperatures warming, I was having a harder time finding his tracks. Finally, he led me way high, into the snow-covered scree base of the mountain. I figured he was going back to his daytime den, as the tracks were made early morning. Everything in me wanted to follow him, but the difficult terrain and my own exhaustion said ‘Another Day’.
Here’s another question to answer: Bobcats are very habitual animals, using the same territory over and over again. This bobcat was occupying cougar territory. He was denning and hunting in an area where I’ve seen cougar sign over and over again. I understand cougars sometimes kill bobcats. Last year I found bobcat and cougar tracks together in another area with almost the same freshness. I wonder about this tenuous relationship, and how these bobcats are avoiding cougars.