"Ambush" a bobcat that is hunting the "edge"!
Before I start, I want to encourage you to also go to my image of a Gulf Fritillary butterfly that is "puddling" bobcat scat. Under that image there is a thorough explanation of how we learn what these bobcats eat in the Everglades. Here is the pathway: Nature, Animals, Invertebrates, and then....image 29 of 30 images in this section. Or, when you are done reading about this bobcat, just come back near the top and click onto this link:
NOW, ON TO THE IMAGE YOU ARE LOOKING AT ABOVE:
I was doing a deer survey on an Everglades levee this day. Levees are straight, elevated roads, adjacent to canals, enabling vehicular travel across the surface of the vast Everglades marsh. The roads are comprised of the limestone that is the bedrock of the Everglades. In the road construction process a dredger ruptures a hole in the bedrock and begins removing the limestone and depositing it adjacent to the canal that the dredger is creating.
Probably at a distance of 1/4 mile I spotted a bobcat hunting the edge of this levee (road) and natural vegetation, in the western glades, just north of Alligator Alley. The bobcat was working its way toward me along that edge. I spotted it just as I rounded a bend in the road and I backed up around the bend again before it saw me. I quickly got out of the truck, walked up to the bend, positioned myself behind my camera along the bend so that I was behind the tall grasses and could just barely see the approaching cat. While I waited I quickly tweaked my camera setting. I knew I would get just a single exposure and so I was very careful that my technique was as good as I could make it. I probably went with the Sunny 16 rule. Either way, the grass was about neutral density and there was almost no contrast. The exposure was a sure thing.
Now, I waited while watching the approaching bobcat through the viewfinder. The conditions were ideal for an "ambush", i.e. there was no wind for it to scent me and it was most likely that the cat would continue on along the edge of the roadway. Honestly, I did not know if the scent would come into play and I suspected it would not, because cats are so sight-oriented and this cat was conditioned to human scent anyway.
Bobcats and wild canids, such as foxes and coyotes, typically will hunt the edge of roads, probably because it is easier for them to traverse the road and small prey species (hispid cotton rats and Florida cottontails here) are common along levee edges, and abundant here during extremely high water. And who knows, maybe bobcats have learned that they are able to cover a lot more distance by hunting edge than by randomly hunting any interior.
I had tried this same spot-sit-and-wait technique on a small group of coyotes at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico. I spotted them at a distance of about 1/2 mile, working the edge of a gravel road/woods, gradually getting close to me. Making certain they did not see me, I went into the edge, got behind some sparse cover and waited, but the coyotes never made it to me....or more likely detected me and went around me.
But this bobcat kept coming. It would disappear into the edge and then reappear some seconds later, gradually closing the gap. After the better part of 5 minutes, the cat closed the entire distance and came right to me!
Honestly, I have to admit that I was concerned it might bump right into me or get so close that something bad would come out of it. But no, at a distance of roughly 20-30 feet it spotted me through the tall grass, came to an abrupt stop and sat down, trying to absolutely identify what it was looking at. Here you see a green cast because the 300 mm lens was shooting through sparse grasses.
I refused to take my face from the viewfinder, knowing that the instant I did the cat would swing around and be gone in a blur. If you go to my animal gallery and enlarge this bobcat image to 3X and study the cat's face for a few moments, I believe you will agree that this cat is very concerned for its safety and is just about to make a decision to quickly leave the area. Without information that will ease its fears, this bobcat is a few moments away from turning and running.
Bobcats are not stupid and like all of at least the higher vertebrates, they have good memories. Also, like all the other higher animals (at least) they are creatures of habit and they prefer to minimize conflict by having individual home ranges. I am certain beyond a doubt that this cat hunts this levee with some frequency, i.e. every day, or week. In other words, this levee in incorporated into a circuit that the cat hunts. And so, the cat is VERY familiar with this levee. So It was jolted when it saw me.......something big, dark and well......that has never been there before. In the years I have been in the Everglades, I have frequently encountered bobcats hunting levees. They hunt the levees because it is easy and because there is likely a higher density of prey species along the edge. But the Everglades bobcats have learned that they are going to occasionally see humans on the levees and so will need to avoid them.
When I mentioned the high density of prey species, I was referring to the Everglades before the introduction of the Burmese Python. Tragically, this large, exotic constrictor has reduced some of the native Everglades mammal species populations by upwards of 90% ! And we have yet to figure a very effective way to dramatically reduce the snake's numbers. Although there has been progress. And I still believe that the biologists are on the right track by using the snake's own pheromones to lure numbers of males to the sexually active females........the Judas Snake tactic.
Now, back to the bobcat.
This image was taken in the mid-80's, before digital and before autofocus was of any practical value. I was using the manually focusing Nikon F3. Had this cat not stopped, I suspect that as it came increasingly closer I would have futilely struggled for sharp focus until it finally blundered smack into me and fled at a blistering speed. In other words, had the cat not stopped, I doubt I would have gotten a sharp image at all. Instead, at the instant the cat sat, I had attained sharp focus. I quickly checked everything and then squeezed off that one frame without punching the shutter release button.
Instantly, at the sound of the camera the cat leaped off the road and down into the brush along the edge of the marsh! The frame I just described is the one that you see. It is the only image I got.
On another day along this same levee I had a vey unusual occurrence: I was driving the levee at probably about 10 mph when suddenly, i heard and felt a hard, loud thump under the vehicle. I ran over the top of something and it hit the frame. At first I thought it was a big stick but then I realized that I ran over an animal, not with a tire but straddling it. It could only be an armadillo I thought. I was wrong. As I walked back to the spot I gradually became aware that there was a bobcat in that tall grass that is the center of the road....slowly regaining its awareness. In a few moments it detected me, stood up and ran into the surrounding cover. Undoubtedly, this bobcat was enjoying a midday siesta, bedded down in the center grasses of the road. When I passed over it the bobcat apparently jumped out of reflex action and then took a fair amount of time to regain its senses. I have no doubt the animal fully recovered because it was completely mobile when it ran off and cats have extremely thick skulls. I did not "run over" the cat. It jumped from its sleep and banged into the bottom of my truck as the truck passed over it, i.e. it was not crushed.