Predatory Nature

There is an unsavory side to life that most people don’t get to experience first-hand.  Some choose to ignore the realities of nature, while others are offended by these realities.  (If you are, it might be a good idea not to view the extended post.)  I’m currently reading a great book by William Stoltzenburg called “Where the Wild Things Were: Life, Death, and Ecological Wreckage in a Land of Vanishing Predators”.  As you probably gathered from the title, this book is about how the presence of predators shapes their environment.   The most famous recent example of this is the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone.  Their presence has had a disproportionate effect on the Elk herds and has allowed portions of the river environment to recover and new trees to grow for the first time in over 80 years.

So, how does this relate to me and bobcats in sunny Santa Barbara?  A lot of people enjoy seeing my bobcat photos, especially when they look cute-and-cuddly and are acting like pet cats.  The last time I posted an image of a bobcat with a rabbit in its mouth, I got a far different response.  I can understand not wanting to see graphic images of an animal in pain, (it is far more difficult to witness in person, the sounds and sight of their prey dying) but I feel that I am perpetrating an untruth by only sharing the G-rated side of their life.

Recently, the young female chased and caught a rabbit right in front of us.  We have noticed that if she does not immediately deliver a fatal bite, she becomes very cautious around her prey.  I assume she had a negative experience while much younger because we have witnessed this behavior multiple times.  Too many, her unwillingness to immediately kill her prey will be seen as callous or sadistic.  However, she must hunt for a living and it is a dangerous occupation.  Going back to the wolves for a just a minute:  at least one of the packs in Yellowstone has specialized in preying on bison.  This is a particularly dangerous affair and bringing down a single animal can take all day and usually results in broken bones or even death among some members of the wolf pack.  A baby bunny is far less dangerous than an adult bison, but a well timed bite to the bobcat’s face could lead to a nasty infection or worse, losing an eye (we have seen scratches around her eyes).  So, if her initial attack is not fatal it is far safer for her to wait until her prey weakens and dies, however horrible this seems from our perspective.

“Searching”  –  Young Female Bobcat, Goleta, CA

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8 Responses to Predatory Nature

  1. greg says:

    Excellent work Barry, great images and text!

  2. Yes, people tend to not want to think what and how predators do to feed themselves. Thanks for the book mention. I studied wolves in college and hate what Man does to them without thinking what they are doing the rest of the environment by eradicating them. Hi there, Alaska and Idaho!

  3. Pat Ulrich says:

    fantastic series, Barry! its so true that people are fascinated with predators, but are often wary of seeing them do what they must to survive.

  4. Lisa says:

    Barry, I completely understand what you are saying. I am definitely one of those people who have a hard time seeing a predator and its prey but then I completely understand that it’s the circle of life and I need to get over it. I respect, admire, and appreciate you showing both sides of the bobcat as the predator and as the cute and cuddly because it’s the truth…the truth of nature and there’s no denying that.

  5. Jared Hughey says:

    Thanks for sharing your fantastic shots Barry! This definitely depicts the realities of nature. I agree that it is important to acknowledge these beautiful cats as the predators they are.

    I have visited Yellowstone the past two summers and was thrilled to observe wolves during both trips. Recently I heard that Yellowstone’s most famous wolf pack, the Druid Peak Pack, is almost at its end. According to this article (http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_33d60bd8-2755-11df-b3d9-001cc4c03286.html), the Druids, who have occupied Lamar Valley since the reintroduction in ’95 and peaked at 37 individuals, are down to just one female! Another article linked from this one says the total population within the park has dropped from 171 two years ago to just 56 wolves this winter. The main causes seem to be disease and conflicts between the packs.

  6. Kerry says:

    I personally don’t have a problem with seeing this in the wild or in a photo. It is part of nature and I don’t have a problem with that despite the fact that I am a vegan (my brother used to run a slaughterhouse and nothing you see in the wild could come anywhere near to the horror of that). It is only right that nature should be portrayed in all of its aspects not just the cute ones.

  7. John Wall says:

    Great work on that series of shots. Beautiful photography and excellent story.

  8. Teddy says:

    Excellent story revealing the truth and understanding behind animal behavior. Fantastic supporting images too. You offer a wonderful education here, Barry. Your writing and photog is superb. Thanks very much for sharing this with us.

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