Here’s another good reason to keep your cat inside. A study recently published in PLoS One revealed that domestic cats, bobcats and mountain lions living in the same area share the same diseases. Diseases were even transmitted between domestic and wild cats that did not come into contact with each other.
I stumbled across an interesting news article about the diet of cougars in British Columbia’s, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It is widely accepted that cougars predominantly prey upon deer. However, this study found that deer were not the primary prey species in this area, and that raccoons were their number one prey item. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a link to the actual study, and the news article did not indicate how the prey percentages were measured. Obviously, raccoons are smaller than deer, so a cougar would have to eat several raccoons to get the same number of calories as in a deer.
The most interesting part of the article was the discovery that this population of cougars was utilizing marine mammals as prey, in particular harbor seals and sea lions. This is the first account of cougars eating marine mammals. This is particularly surprising considering that marine mammals made up 34% of their diet in one section of the study area.
I started the morning with a laugh at today’s XKCD comic. Occasionally us photographers fail to see the forest for the trees.
Crows are such trouble makers… This one decided to antagonize a pair of American Kestrels by seeing how close it could land and creep up to this one. Other than staring at the crow, the kestrel was smart and didn’t react to the crow’s antics. Frustrated, the crow flew off and tried to land next to the female kestrel, who was perched at the very top of the dead pine. Fortunately for her, there wasn’t room to land. In defeat, the crow decided to land on an adjacent branch. I’m not sure about the kestrels, but I know that I got a good laugh watching the crow try to land on the thin dead branch only to have it break and fall. That was the last straw for the crow, and it flew away in disgust.
We took a quick trip to the Carpinteria Salt Marsh on Saturday. Most of the marsh is part of the University of California Natural Reserve system, and is closed to the public; however a portion of it is owned by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County and is open to the public. I had heard reports of a red fox in the area, and with all the recent rains we hoped to at least find some tracks. No luck on that front, but we were rewarded with so nice light and cooperative birds. The highlights were seeing every kind of Teal, a couple Northern Pintails, and even a Surf Scoter preening very close to the beach. A couple dolphins were also seen lounging and barely moving just offshore. All in all, it was a very nice morning trip.
“Cinnamon Teal” – Carpinteria Salt Marsh
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.