Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bolton Bobcat - 2/27/09

Susan was out in the Wilder bobcat's territory yesterday and came across this downed tree with the cat's tracks running the full length. Not far away, on a trail that the bobcat seems to use regularly, I came across what could be a scratching post. Some of us trackers have had discussions about posts in the past, and I admit it's very easy to call an antler rub a scratching post, so I reserve the right to flip-flop on this. However, if anyone is ever up for a trek back in those woods, I'd be happy to point this out and get someone else's take on it. The shaggy, scraped-up section starts at about 14 inches or so off the ground, and the tree is alive. (I neglected to note the type of tree, which I'll check next time I'm in there.)

On today's outing with my brother and our three dogs, we had an excellent fox sighting in an open field. The animal sat perfectly still for the longest time - while we tried to figure out what we were seeing - and then loped off across the field to the woods. It seemed quite unconcerned about us or the dogs (who didn't even notice it). I think the fox had been hunting, perhaps waiting for a mouse or meadow vole. We were sorry to have caused it to miss a meal.


  1. Susan,

    A scratching bobcat alone could not have caused that wound, as you probably realize. Looks to me like there was at least antler rubbing to start with. I think that everything you see there could have been caused by antler rubbing, but it's possible that a bobcat came along and scratched the exposed wood, adding to the frayed appearance.

    The tree seems awfully small (in terms of trunk diameter), though. My pet cats seem to choose larger trees and logs to scratch, maybe because their bodies are too wide to comfortably scratch on smaller trees. So I would expect the even larger bobcat to choose larger trees as well. Also, 14 inches off the ground seems a little low.

    On the other hand, there are few reports of bobcat scratch posts. Why is it so hard to find them?

    One theory is that bobcats don't return to the same trees and logs to scratch over and over, the way domestic cats do, so that they don't leave much noticeable damage on any given post.

    But another possibility is that they are attracted to already the damaged wood (bobcat scratch posts that have been found tend to be on softened, rotting wood)of buck rubs, and scratch over them. I've wondered about that on some of the larger diameter rubs we've seen. One example was that basswood tree here at Wilder Farm - there was a lot of fraying, like you see on your photo, and it was in the area where we regularly find bobcat tracks.

    I'd like to see this tree - perhaps I can accompany you on a dog walk soon.

  2. I could have been clearer in my description. Yes, Janet, I most certainly think this tree scar started out as an antler rub, and the only reason I raise the scratching post theory is the very shaggy surface of the wood on a live tree (and of course, it being in the middle of what we have found to be Bobcat Central).

    Fourteen inches off the ground is a little low; that was the very bottom of the mark, though, and most of the presumed scratching was several inches above that.

    Regarding that basswood tree, did we ever definitively determine that to be a scratching post? Can't remember.

    The tree in question here may or may not be used by the Wilder bobcat. I was more convinced in the positive direction until I read that theory about bobcats not scratching the same posts over and over. Perhaps when the NT camera becomes available, we can attempt to solve this mystery photographically.

  3. No, we never determined with any certainty that the Wilder basswood was a scratch post. I think there was some antler rubbing on it, with obvious tine marks. There might have been some cat scratching over it, though. By the way, that tree fell over in the ice storm.

    If I have some time later on, I'll unearth the photos of the basswood with all the marks, and post them alongside photos of the cedar logs that my cats use as scratch posts, so we can all see the similarities and differences.