This is the final post in a series about a bobcat research project in Southern California. Please read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you haven’t already.
In the previous two posts, I wrote about spending a day in the field with bobcat researcher Laurel Klein. An important point about scientific research is that you never really know where your work will take you on any given day. This is especially true when doing field work and working with an animal that you rarely see in the wild. One of the most challenging aspects of this project, has to be not knowing what each day will bring. As I mentioned previously, simply maintaining the traps can take most of the day. If Laurel actually traps a bobcat, her day just got a lot longer.
I mention this, because I really have to thank her for calling a week later and letting me know that they had a bobcat. Waiting for me to drive down, so that I could see a bobcat up close and get some photos, meant that her day was going to be that much longer. Thanks Laurel!
Above, is a photo of the beautiful male bobcat that I saw when I arrived. He was actually quite calm, and Laurel does a very professional job making sure the bobcat does not experience too much stress. There are protocols that she must carefully follow, for the well being of the bobcat, but it was quite evident that she goes above and beyond, and really cares deeply about these cats.
Once I arrived, Laurel finished preparations to anesthetize the bobcat. Here she is preparing a blow dart with the help of NPS intern Isaac Kelsey. Once the bobcat was darted, it was very important to be as quiet as possible and not to disturb the bobcat. Once the bobcat was asleep, it was important to work quickly because there is a limited amount of time to get a lot done before the bobcat wakes up.
Once the bobcat was asleep, Laurel carefully moved him from the cage and carried him to the work area. Before any other work was performed, Laurel and Tiffany Armenta weighed the bobcat.
I mostly tried to stay out of the way, but was able to help by taking photos of the bobcat from all angles, so that it might be identified from remote camera photos, or for general comparison if it was captured again.
As you can imagine, a lot of work was being done by everyone as efficiently as possible. The primary reason for capturing the bobcats is to get blood samples to test for the presence of anti-coagulant poison and for genetic testing. Most of the bobcats captured, will never be caught again, so it is important to get all the samples that might ever be needed.
After taking some additional measurements and tagging the bobcat, we waited for him to wake up. While we waited, I had the opportunity to pet him (with gloves on) and was surprised that he has such coarse fur. Laurel told me that the female bobcats can have much softer fur, more like a house-cat. All-in-all it was an incredible day and I’m very thankful to have had this opportunity. Research projects like this take a lot of time and effort from a few very dedicated people. These projects are almost always inadequately funded, so I encourage anyone who has had their life enriched by these amazing animals, to volunteer or donate what you can. I know there are many other photographers reading this, and I feel that we have a great opportunity to get involved with nature conservation and education. I know that I’ve been humbled by reading about the generosity of many great photographers and find them an inspiration.