Wild Bobcat in Sedona Arizona
More often that you expect, especially in a place like Sedona Arizona, the famous Southwestern red rock tourist haven, you'll get a wildlife watcher's treat. That's what we got this one Saturday in October, while doing routine chores around our property. The birds began chirping, then squawking, as if something major was really posing a threat. Then we laid eyes on it: a wild bobcat, lurking quietly in the brush.
Chuck Oldham (late co-founder/publisher of Gateway To Sedona), ran to get a closer look and noted the amazing size of this animal with a shoulder height of almost 2 feet... not your average kitty cat by any stretch.
With camera in hand, Chuck ventured into the wash, a rocky, dry creek bed, which runs behind the yard. He walked a short distance, and there was the bobcat, not 20 feet away, sitting at the edge, with little apparent fear of the human being approaching with a camera.
A few lucky photos resulted, and that was it. This beautiful creature turned and disappeared into the thick bramble of evergreen oaks, with scores of birds chattering with alarm all along the path as he departed.
Big Cat, Little Package
Bobcats live all over the United States, yet regional lore and wisdom about the animals focus on how they seem uniquely and magically suited to a particular habitat, whether it’s the Louisiana bayou or the Grand Canyon.
In fact, you’re much more likely to see a bobcat skulking around a suburban cul de sac than you are if you set out to find one in the wild. The ever-increasing “urban edge” communities where residential areas border undeveloped land are attracting bobcats in increasing numbers as pressures from drought, agriculture and other development send them in search of water (swimming pools), food (rodents attracted by human activity) and shelter (what’s that noise under the house?) As long as those three elements are in place, bobcats make themselves right at home, and while they avoid direct contact with people, they don’t seem particularly worried about sharing their space with us either, as evidenced by the suave fellow who posed for this photo in a Sedona backyard recently.
Bobcats are typically nocturnal, and tend to be seen at dawn or dusk. In the low light, it may be hard to tell if that critter lurking by your pool is just a neighbor’s obese housecat or something more exotic. They do belong to the same family as Mr. Fluffypants, but are about twice the size of your average housecat, with a large male weighing in at about 35 pounds. Their base color is grey to reddish-tan, with a cream colored belly, chest and throat, and vivid black stripes along the legs and spots on the body. They have large pointed ears with tufts at the tips, and a ruff around the head that gives a dignified mutton-chop sideburn look to them. Their stubby tails tend to be no longer than four to seven inches.
That little body packs a lot of power. A bobcat can bring down prey that’s up to eight times its own size. As a rule, though, bobcats live primarily on rodents and rabbits, with the occasional bird, reptile, fish or insect thrown in. They hunt by sight rather than smell, and will wait, hidden and silent, until something scoots by unaware—then pow! They’ll pounce up to ten feet from a standstill to grab their unsuspecting prey. It’s this stealth that makes them so elusive in the wild and confounds sport hunters who are in perpetual awe of its other-worldly ability to disappear into the bush without a trace.
With an estimated 1.5 million in the wild, bobcats have shown resilience in the face of wholesale habitat destruction, poisoning in the name of protecting livestock, and hunting for sport and fur. Even living in close quarters with us, they’re hardly ever aggressive toward people, but if they’re hungry enough, they can be a danger to small pets. Their attraction to our “urban edge” communities is a mixed blessing – it puts the bobcats at greater risk of being either accidentally or intentionally harmed by human activity, but it also gives us the rare opportunity to see these otherwise elusive creatures up close and marvel at the beauty and resiliency in such a small package.
Photos: A wild bobcat on the bank of a dry creek near Mountain Shadows Drive, Sedona Arizona. This wild bobcat almost seems to pose for a picture! The photos don't really give a sense of how large and magnificent this cat is "in person." As Chuck Oldham noted, "it's easily three times the size of a housecat."