Entries tagged with “bobcats”.


As I drove down my driveway Sunday afternoon, a jackrabbit was sitting at the edge of the gravel eating grass. I didn’t have my camera with me, but I stopped and waited awhile for it to hop along. When it didn’t, I restarted my car and approached the rabbit slowly. The rabbit hopped away from the driveway 10 feet or so and watched me drive past.

Twenty minutes later when I returned, there were two jackrabbits beside the driveway, so I parked and walked up through a field to the cabin and got my camera. By the time I returned to my car, one rabbit had disappeared, but this one had stuck around.

I got back in my car and again drove toward the rabbit very slowly. Once I got close enough to snap a photo, I stopped, leaned out the car window, and shot several. Then I started slowly driving toward it again.

When I had almost reached the jackrabbit, it hopped behind a coyote bush, and I watched to see it if would continue on across the field. It didn’t. And as I drove past the bush, I spotted the rabbit hunkered down only a few feet from my car. Again I stopped and shot some pictures before driving on.

Unfortunately for the rabbits, this bobcat has taken to hunting around Mitchell cabin. I’ve seen it catch a gopher or two, but so far there’s been no evidence of its catching a jackrabbit.

The bobcat casually walks across Mitchell cabin’s parking area between my car and the barrier we call “Woodhenge.” (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

Birds, of course, are not the only creatures with pecking orders. Here a raccoon at the top of the pecking order grabs a slice of bread off my kitchen floor Sunday night while a subordinate raccoon (barely visible at left) waits its turn.

Once the dominant raccoon has taken a slice, the subordinate raccoon reaches inside for its own bread.

It was raining cats and dogs last week, so when the sky finally cleared, these horses in a pasture next to Mitchell cabin lay down for a sunbath. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

As for the origin of the phrase “raining cats and dogs,” it’s nothing like the malarkey that has been circulating on the Internet for the past 15 years. Repeatedly forwarded emails claim the phrase dates back to the thatch roofs on the huts of medieval peasants. The thick straw supposedly was the only place for little animals to get warm, so all the pets — dogs, cats and other small animals — lived in the roof. When it rained, the roof would become slippery and the animals would sometimes slip off. This is said to account for the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

The phrase does indeed date to the Middle Ages, the venerable Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins agrees, but only because of the superstition of an era when people believed in witches, ghosts and goblins. “The cat was thought by sailors to have a lot to do with storms, and the witches that were believed to ride in the storms were often pictured as black cats,” the dictionary explains.

“Dogs and wolves were symbols of the winds, and the Norse storm god Odin was frequently shown surrounded by dogs and wolves. So when a particularly violent rainstorm came along, people would say it was ‘raining cats and dogs’ — with cats symbolizing the rain and the dogs representing the wind and storm.”

In light of that, I’d say West Marin could use a few more cats this spring — but no more dogs.

As days grow cold with still no rain, I’m starting to see more and more of my wild neighbors.

A fortnight ago when I stepped outside, a bobcat was walking nonchalantly past Mitchell cabin. Unfortunately, my camera was in the car, and by the time I retrieved it, the bobcat — hearing me — hurried off. I managed to snap only one good shot of it as it retreated under my neighbor’s fence.

A fawn warily trots past Mitchell cabin, careful to avoid becoming dinner for the bobcat.

A Golden crowned sparrow pauses for a drink at the birdbath on my deck. The Golden crowned sparrow spends its summers in northern Alaska but heads south for the winter. Its song has been described as “Three Blind Mice in a minor key.”

SUNSET WITH A CRESCENT MOON OVER INVERNESS RIDGE — In preparation for landing, please return your seats and tray tables to their upright and locked position.

Trick or treat.

I’m pining for a conifer that for 37 years stood in a row lining my driveway but which died during the dry weather. Two weeks ago, Nick Whitney of Inverness dispatched his Pacific Slope Tree crew to cut down and chip the 25-foot-high Monterey pine. It took three men all of an hour.

A young doe (left) and buck blacktail deer graze just uphill from Mitchell cabin.

Two Golden crowned sparrows and a California towhee peck birdseed off the picnic table on the deck. Periodically, some towhee can be heard knocking on a cabin window. It turns out California towhees are prone to challenging their own reflections.

BOBCAT ON THE PROWL — The bobcat was back hunting in my pasture Saturday. Bobcats’ favorite prey are rabbits and hares, but they’ll eat anything from insects to rodents to deer. Adult bobcats range in size from 2 to 3.5  feet long and have been clocked at up to 34 miles per hour.

There’s good news for California’s bobcats.

California legislators passed the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 last September, and Governor Jerry Brown signed it into law Oct. 11. The bill, AB 1213, was authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica).

“The Legislature,” notes the Legislative Counsel’s Digest, “finds that a rise in the demand for bobcat pelts in China and other foreign markets has resulted in a substantial increase in the number of trappers taking bobcats as well as in the number of bobcats taken for commercial purposes in California.”

As of Jan. 1, 2014, bobcat hunting and trapping will be prohibited on lands around Joshua Tree National Park. In addition, “the bill would require the [California Fish and Game] Commission to amend its regulations to prohibit the trapping of bobcats adjacent to the boundaries of each national or state park and national monument or wildlife refuge in which bobcat trapping is prohibited.”

“Body gripping traps are already illegal in California,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported in March, “so the bill would ban the use of wire mesh cages that trappers generally bait with cat food or carrion to lure the cats inside, causing the door to close.”

Equally important, the Fish and Game Commission commencing on Jan. 1, 2016, must “consider whether to prohibit bobcat trapping within, and adjacent to, preserves, state conservancies, and any other public or private conservation areas identified to the commission by the public as warranting protection,” the Legislative Counsel’s Digest notes.

“The commission, as necessary, shall amend its regulations… to prohibit bobcat trapping in any area determined by the commission to warrant protection.” The Digest adds that the Fish and Game Commission “may impose additional requirements, restrictions, or prohibitions related to the taking of bobcats, including a complete prohibition on the trapping of bobcats.”

As a regular reader of The San Francisco Chronicle’s Jon Carroll, I recognized an echo of the divine in his March 5 column, which was headlined: My legs are frozen and I can’t get up.

The column, which focused on his cat named Bucket, asked: “Do you inconvenience yourself just to please a cat? ….Do you allow your legs to freeze and tingle because the cat on your lap does not feel like moving just now?”

Indulging cats in this way is not another sign of modern Americans’ excessive solicitude toward their pets, many of which are better fed than impoverished citizens in some African countries. Rather there is historical and religious precedent for being especially considerate of sleeping cats.

I’m thinking, of course, of a cat named Muezza that, according to Muslim lore, belonged to the Prophet Muhammed. Legend has it that one day when Muhammed heard the call to prayers, he went to put on his robe only to find Muezza asleep on a sleeve. Rather than disturb the cat, Muhammed cut off the sleeve and wore the mutilated garment to the mosque.

An India peacock walks next to Mitchell cabin.

As has been noted here previously, a lone peacock showed up on this hill several months ago and eventually began hanging out with a flock of wild turkeys. He can often be seen bringing up the rear as the flock hunts and pecks its way across the fields.

Occasionally, however, the peacock gets separated from the flock and begins its shrill cries as he searches for his companions.

A peacock by the chimney.

Last Wednesday Lynn repeatedly heard the peacock’s cries coming from somewhere near Mitchell cabin. We both went out on the deck and scanned the fields uphill and downhill but saw nothing.

Eventually we went indoors only to hear more of the peacock’s cries, which always sound a bit like anguished screams. So we went back outside, but again we couldn’t spot it. I was about to go indoors when I heard some scratching on the roof. I looked up, and there was the peacock looking down at me.

After a minute or two, the peacock flew awkwardly to the ground (they’re not good at flying), crossed a field, and departed with a stately strut down the driveway.

Another colorful visitor during the past fortnight was this tom turkey. The wild turkey could be heard gobbling after a disinterested hen he was pursuing. The gobbles were noisy, but they didn’t compare to the peacock’s screams.

This bobcat, like the peacock and turkey, is a regular visitor to Mitchell cabin. Unlike the birds, however, it seldom makes a noise. A couple of weeks ago, my neighbor Didi Thompson called to let me know the bobcat was in my field, and I was able to shoot this photo of it, as well as several others.

Shaili Zappa Monterroso arrives at Larkspur Landing after taking a Golden Gate Ferry from San Francisco.

One visitor last month who doesn’t drop by Mitchell cabin all that often was my youngest stepdaughter Shaili, a student at the University of Minnesota. Shaili grew up in Guatemala and lived at Mitchell cabin during the months I was married to her mother, Ana Carolina Monterroso.

Shaili turned 20 while she was visiting and is seen here celebrating with Lynn.

Although her first language is Spanish, Shaili speaks better English than some of my friends who grew up here.

Of recent, I’ve noticed people having trouble with homonyms, words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things: sum and some, weight and wait, wear and ware, or there, their and they’re.

Homonyms are one reason why it’s better to get news from newspapers than from radio or television, for it is obviously easier to distinguish between written homonyms than spoken ones. This is particularly important when it comes to one’s “burro” or his “burrow.” A “burro” is an “ass.” A “burrow” is a “hole in the ground.” Listening to the radio, it’s sometimes hard to tell one from the other.

The discovery of bobcat traps set along the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park has angered “thousands of people,” The Los Angeles Times reported March 4. (The park straddles the Riverside County-San Bernardino County border.)

In response to the public “fury,” California Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) has introduced the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 (AB 1213) to “ban trapping of bobcats for commercial purposes.” Even though a similar bill was defeated in 1993, I’m betting this one will be successful.

A bobcat pauses while strolling past Mitchell cabin last Thursday.

“Trappers are keenly interested in bobcats today because the price of a pelt has risen from $78 to about $700 since 2009 in China, Russia, Greece and other foreign markets,” The Times explained.

“Assemblyman Bloom’s bill is a critical step in bringing California’s antiquated wildlife laws into the 21st century,” Brendan Cummings, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s wildlands programs and a resident of the community of Joshua Tree, was quoted as saying. “Right now, it’s legal for trappers to line the boundary of a national park with traps, kill the park’s wildlife and ship their pelts overseas.”

Bobcats are becoming so common around homes in Point Reyes Station that a few have been trapped  for preying on people’s animals, and at least one or two have ended up as roadkill. There have been no signs of anyone trapping bobcats for their pelts at the fringes of West Marin’s parks, thank God; however, without the Bobcat Protection Act, there will always be the potential for commercial trapping — if done quietly so as to avoid a fight with the neighbors.

“Although bobcats are trapped primarily for their fur, existing state law classifies them as ‘nongame mammals,’ and provides no limit on the number of bobcats that may be taken by a licensed trapper,” The Times added.

“Bloom’s proposal would reclassify bobcats as ‘fur-bearing mammals’ and make it illegal to trap them or to import, export, or sell any bobcat part or product.” Currently, trappers can get a license for $111.50, but they must check their traps daily and annually report their take to the state.

“Body gripping traps are already illegal in California,” The San Francisco Chronicle added, “so the bill would ban the use of wire mesh cages that trappers generally bait with cat food or carrion to lure the cats inside, causing the door to close.”

Lynx rufus shows off its bobbed tail.

An estimated 1,813 bobcats were taken in California during the 2011-12 license year, an increase of about 51 percent over the previous season, The Times quoted state wildlife authorities as saying. “Trappers took 1,499 of those bobcats, with hunters taking the rest.”

Assemblyman Bloom’s proposed legislation would not ban sport hunting of bobcats; however, it became illegal to use dogs to hunt bobcats or bears in California under a law that took effect Jan. 1. The law was authored by State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last September.

Bobcat outside my window.

“Bobcats can kill prey much bigger than themselves but usually eat rabbits, birds, mice, squirrels, and other smaller game,” according to the National Geographic. “The bobcat hunts by stealth, but delivers a deathblow with a leaping pounce that can cover 10 feet.”

I can’t imagine much opposition in West Marin to Assemblyman Bloom’s Bobcat Protection Act. Even the agricultural community can live with it since the proposed law would not prohibit killing bobcats that start preying on chickens or other farm animals.

It’s time for another look at wildlife that have been showing up this fall around Mitchell cabin.

Last week I reported finding coyote scat on my driveway and noted that neighbor George Stamoulis had not only found the scat on his driveway, he’d seen the critter itself ambling up Campolindo Road.

Finally I  saw the beast for myself. About 1:30 p.m. Saturday, I looked out the kitchen’s glass door just in time to see a coyote round the corner of the cabin. I grabbed my camera, went out on my deck, and managed to catch this shot of the coyote marking its territory by urinating and scratching the ground.

I get a kick out of seeing coyotes, but, of course, I’m not a sheepman. For 40 years, there were no coyotes in West Marin, but they never disappeared from Northern Sonoma County. After the federal government made ranchers stop poisoning them, coyotes began returning southward. They reached West Marin in 1983 and within the next 15 or so years wiped out a majority of sheep ranches in West Marin and Southern Sonoma County.

Along with sheep, coyotes sometimes hunt deer and not infrequently eat domestic dogs and cats. Among their most-common prey are small mammals, birds, snakes, lizards, and large insects. Traditionally diurnal, coyotes are becoming more nocturnal because of pressure from human development.

Hunting outside my kitchen window.

Last week I posted a couple of photos of a bobcat that had just shown up outside my kitchen window. Here’s a third image that shows it hunting. Bobcats’ favorite prey are rabbits and hares, but they’ll eat anything from insects to rodents to deer.

Gray foxes are omnivorous, eating fruits along with birds and small rodents. They also like cheap, white bread. Gray foxes tend to be nocturnal or crepuscular (active at dawn and twilight).

Along with the Asian raccoon dog, they are the only members of the Canidae family that can climb trees. That’s one way they can raid bird nests — and avoid the coyotes.

After sizing up the situation Saturday night, a gray fox takes a slice of bread from my girlfriend Lynn’s hand.

Also visiting our deck each evening — hoping for slices of bread and honey-roasted peanuts — are two families of raccoons. While the families don’t like each other, they are at ease around us. Here a young raccoon curls up outside our kitchen door to take a nap. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

 

When Lynn and I returned home from a visit to my optometrist in Terra Linda last week, we found a mirthful message on our answering machine from Linda Sturdivant of Inverness Park. “Hey Dave,” she said. “I want to tell you about something beautiful I saw yesterday.

“As I was leaving here, I got to the end of the levee road. At the pumpkinhouse, there is one of the most beautiful red trees you could ever see. Get a picture.”

The pumpkinhouse gets its nickname from the pumpkin displays that once were on its front porch and fence every year. If you check Janis Ceresi’s comment, she includes a link that shows what the pumpkin house used to look like on Halloween.

Wanting more information regarding the tree’s location, I called Linda back, and a friendly young woman answered. Not recognizing her voice, I asked, “Is this Linda?” She said she was. “Just where is this beautiful tree?” I asked, and she sounded confused. “Which tree?” she responded. “The one you called me about.” She then asked me, “Where are you?” and I replied, “In Point Reyes Station.”

“Well, I’m in San Francisco,” she said. We both laughed and hung up, and I called the real Linda Sturdivant.

The tree Linda saw is not the only one around here with brilliant fall colors. This allée of maple trees is across Highway 1 from Campolindo Road, where I live.

Last week I had just started down my front steps when I heard a commotion in a pyracantha bush on Doreen Miao’s property uphill from mine. Not sure what I was seeing, I grabbed my camera and started snapping photos.

Before long the source of the disturbance became obvious when a flock of wild turkeys fluttered to the ground. What had they been doing up in the bush? I was surprised that the bush’s bitter berries are safe to eat, so I checked the Seasonal Cooking website. “Contrary to a common myth, they are not poisonous,” the site said. “Pyracantha, a relative of apples and roses, is entirely edible.”  In fact, you can use the berries to make preserves and jelly.

As we head toward winter, a variety of wildlife has begun hanging around just outside the cabin. I photographed this blacktail buck just below our deck. In addition, a doe and her fawn are so comfortable here that I can walk within a few yards of them.

Last week I was looking out my kitchen window when I spotted this bobcat looking back at me.

It’s been awhile since I’ve seen a bobcat so close to Mitchell cabin, but it didn’t seem to mind my presence and soon resumed hunting.

Another predator that I haven’t seen for more than a year showed up this week. I didn’t see the coyote, but I found its scat in my driveway. Neighbor George Stamoulis found a fair amount of coyote scat in his driveway and saw the animal itself moseying up Campolindo Road.

Last night, Lynn and I spotted still another creature that hasn’t been around for months. A young possum showed up on my deck to eat the remainder of peanuts Lynn had put out for raccoons. Raccoons and grey foxes have become so common during the evening at Mitchell cabin that they’ve become fairly comfortable with us. We can feed them slices of bread by hand with no problem.

I’ll close on a linguistic fact I learned from the WildCare magazine this week. There is a name for the burbling sounds mother raccoons and their young make among themselves. It’s called trilling, as in Lionel, and we’ve heard it many times.

Monday morning I was watching several Juncos and Bushtits in the grass outside my kitchen window when I noticed some other little creatures scurrying around among them. At least three or four gophers were having a field day.

The fields around Mitchell cabin are honeycombed with gopher tunnels, but I seldom get to photograph the inhabitants.

While it’s fun to watch gophers pop out of the ground, dart around like field mice, and then dive back down their holes, they can be a nuisance. For a couple of years I tried to cultivate a vegetable garden, and while I could keep the deer out, the gophers were unstoppable. More than once I noticed a carrot top shaking inexplicably only to then be pulled underground root first.

In February 2009, rainwater flowing downhill through a gopher tunnel near my cabin created this artesian well where it surfaced.

For me, gophers are merely an annoyance, but for West Marin ranchers, gopher tunnels are a major problem. Tomales rancher John Jensen this week told me that according to agricultural authorities, there are 50 to 250 gophers per acre around here.

The problem is that in heavy rains, hillsides riddled with gopher tunnels act like sponges, which can result in mudslides. In January 1995, gopher tunnels triggered a huge slide on Gary Thornton’s ranch in Tomales.

So I wasn’t at all upset by this bobcat’s hunting gophers outside my window three years ago.

While I watched, the bobcat pounced and caught one as it emerged from its burrow. With the gopher in its teeth, the bobcat trotted uphill to dine in a patch of coyote brush.

In other wildlife news, the raccoon family which showed up on my deck in late July have now become nightly visitors. When the mother raccoon first brought the kits onto my deck (above), the youngsters had very little fear of me but kept looking around in puzzlement as to why they were there.

Mrs. Raccoon, of course, knew that my deck provides good hunting for bread and peanuts. Momma likes both, and the kits immediately took to honey-roasted peanuts. For awhile, however, the young showed no interest in bread, which was unfortunate because white bread is much cheaper than honey-roasted peanuts.

Eventually my girlfriend Lynn figured out the problem. The kits didn’t know how to eat a full slice of bread. Without picking up the bread on the deck, they would try to gnaw at it but would get nowhere. Lynn eventually started tearing the slices into small pieces, and the problem was solved. Their biggest problem now is getting our attention. Here Mrs. Raccoon and her three kits stand on a woodbox outside my dining-room window, hoping we will see them and put out food.

And what if Lynn and I are not to be seen when the raccoons look in the downstairs windows? Some of them have learned to climb onto the roof and peer in an upstairs window, much to the amusement of Lynn.

Several of my cat-owning friends have found gophers in their homes brought in as feline presents. Unpleasant but not worrisome. Other people I know have come home to discover a raccoon has found a way inside — typically through a cat door — and left their kitchens in shambles. More of a problem.

But I don’t know anyone who has ever found a bobcat in their house. In their hen house, yes, but not their own house. If you or anyone you know has had experience with Lynx rufus in your domicile, please send in a comment and tell us about it. It should make for a good story.

Afterward: As it turned out, two readers did have fascinating stories to tell about about bobcats — one in a house and one in a truck. The stories can be found by clicking on the comments section above.