Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bobcat Woes

I always love seeing bobcats while I am out working.  I like seeing them more than any other carnivore out there..although  I would love to see a mountain lion someday, but from a safe distance.  I have had several up close encounters with bobcats over the years and I always feel excited and exhilarated after each one.  They are such gorgeous animals.  I recently had a close encounter with one while walking a trail I use often to get to my study area.  Just as I was stepping foot onto the trail, I see a young, skinny,  rusty colored bobcat right in front of me.  It did not see me so I froze in place so I would not scare it.  It walked along the trail smelling the ground and then sat down.  It looked at me, and tried moving its head a bit to focus on me to figure out what I was since I stood completely still.  I moved a little and it figured out I was alive and got back up and walked a little more along the trail, still sniffing, not being very concerned that I was there, but looked me right in the eyes.  It wagged its tail when we made eye contact.  Usually you are not supposed to make eye contact, but I could not help looking into that wild face.  We held gazes for several seconds and then it looked away, sniffed the ground and looked at me again making eye contact, and once again wagged its tail until we lost eye contact. It finally slowly walked into the bushes and down a slope away from me.  I only managed a photo with my old flip cellphone which did not allow me to zoom in.  I could not manage to get my real camera out of my pack since all the movement and noise would have surely scared it away.
I love to think that these wild animals are out there…secretive and not seen by many and not affected by people in their everyday lives.  Recently, I have learned differently.  I have attended a couple mountain lion talks about studies being done in California and have found that although these animals don’t come into contact with people often, they are greatly affected by us by the poisons we put into the ecosystem. 
Basically the studies showed that most of the carnivores: bobcats, coyotes, fisher, mountain lions, etc. (and ALL of the mountain lions trapped and tested) in California tested positive for anticoagulant rodenticide. This is a poison commonly used for rats, squirrels, etc. that causes the animal to “bleed out” since it keeps the blood from clotting.  It is a slow, painful death.  Even animals in remote parts of the state that are not near any sort of civilization (fishers living in old growth forests) tested positive!    Testing was done in the Central Valley where it was suspected most of the rodenticide found in animals would be the result of the poisons put out to protect local farms/agriculture.  All results from areas tested showed that the poisons in these animals system MAINLY came from HOUSEHOLD use (d-con rat poison, etc.)
I urge people to stop and think before putting poisons into the environment as usually the intended victim is not always the one ingesting the poison. Birds of prey (hawks, eagles, owls, etc.) are also affected as they may feed on small mammals (rats, mice, squirrel, gophers, etc.) that have been poisoned.   If you are dealing with rodents in or around your home, the best solution is to do some habitat modification or trapping.  Poison should ONLY be used as a LAST resort and the type used should be researched. 

 Most toxic chemicals with long lasting effects include:

Less toxic choices include:

More information about wildlife and poison can be found here:

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