The other half and I love to go exploring. So when the local lake paved a bike path in an area I had been raring to go to, we took the chance. For background, as a child my parents found a house in the middle of a big horseshoe-shaped creek that my brother and I liked to wander around in.
So when I’m biking a path and see this:
You just know there’s a detour in order. What did we find, you ask? Well, it looks like we found someone’s secret fishing spot from before the drought. By the time we got there, there was no water, but there were a bunch of dried up cattails and grass mixed with driftwood and oaks in a clearing. Oh, and there were lots of dead standing trees right on the edge. Perfect environment for these:
Red-bellied woodpeckers run rampant in the woods around us, but they usually don’t like people walking up to them. This guy let us get right up next to the tree before he flew further away to watch us.
What else was staring at us from the bushes?
Bobcats! What, you think I was going to say juncos? Well, they were in the bushes, but they weren’t staring at us. Funnily enough, my real reason for exploring the path was to find where the lake’s beaver lives (which apparently isn’t afraid of people and likes to go along the walking paths to get to the lake proper). Instead, we found some kick-awesome birds. Oh, and the bobcat.
We had just gotten back to the path and talked to some very nice ladies walking their small children when I saw a tan colored cat moving through the brush. As I prepared to call it, the other half looked at me and said ‘Honey, that’s not a kitty!’ At this point, the cat moved onto the path, paused, saw us, and then took off running into the bushes. After which it turned around and watched us. I would have gotten a picture, too, if the other half and I weren’t too busy looking at each other and wondering why the cat had come so close to us before panicking.
What do I think is going on? I’m pretty sure someone’s feeding the wildlife. Why do I think that they’re not just going through trash or being pushed into human contact? Because of two incidents, surprisingly unrelated to bobcats.
In the first one, our neighbors found a fox den under their shed. How did they react? They got a neighborhood group around to alternately feed the growing family a roast chicken every few days. By now, you should be groaning. The wildlife department did, too. They actually trapped the family and moved them away.
The second story has actually happened twice now. Walking the lake at night (smart, I know), the other half and I were approached very slowly by a fox. Now, if you know me, I really like wildlife. As a matter of fact, I like wildlife so much that I kind of dislike tamelife. So I tried to scare the little dude off in the usual manner (stomping, yelling, etc.). Totally didn’t work. He kept coming. What ran through my mind at that point? Rabies! Foxes and skunks around here are well known for carrying the disease. Lucky for me, I’ve been vaccinated. Not that I plan on getting bit or anything. I did, however, finally scare the dude off. And no, for those of you wondering, I didn’t throw things at him.
Now, if I was thinking rabies, what does that have to do with feeding foxes? And what do foxes have to do with bobcats? Well, rabies has several forms, one of which is characterized by changing behavior with or without the whole Cujo/salivating thing. However, rabies also kills pretty quickly once the behavior changes happen. These foxes were acting normally except that they just weren’t afraid of people. Which doesn’t mean they were sick; it means they knew at least some people wouldn’t hurt them.
Back to the bobcat. Why isn’t it too afraid of people? Because someone around here thinks it’s totally cool to be near wild animals and is feeding them. You know, I read somewhere that someone tried that with bears once…