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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The cat's ear

The camera trapper's occasional rewards are usually a meager number of decent pictures, and by that I mean well-framed images of the animal in a visually pleasing setting. The best wildlife pictures are taken by people who control the shutter themselves. Camera trappers want dazzling pictures too, but by playing out a kind of frontier fantasy they choose to do it the hard way. Because the odds are against them, they're often happy with less. Like this bobcat's ear.

Until this picture, only 3 carnivores had passed the cameras at Point Reyes National Seashore. That's a small percentage of almost 2000 photos taken during 215 camera trap nights (# of cameras x number of nights).

The best carnivore photo -- of a long-tailed weasel was a thrilling surprise. A raccoon's rear end, and a partial view of a striped skunk weren't worth keeping.

Any picture of a bobcat though is a welcome event, even if it's just an ear. This cat stood still long enough for the camera to take 4 pictures of ears and whiskers.

The camera set on this trail was the most productive of the ten sites. I didn't get any mountain beaver photos here, but there were numerous pictures of brush rabbits and a large woodrat, not to mention a few pictures of shrews and a red salamander.

The image speaks to me. "If you want a better picture, dummy, move the camera back."

That would be hard to do because the trails are narrow in that tangled thicket. If I try for bobcats at Pt. Reyes in 2008, I'll find some trails that are in the open.


Anonymous said...

Hmm. Are you sure that's not the ear of the dreaded domestic short-haired cat?

Camera Trap Codger said...

I wondered the same thing, and I'm not positive, but if it's a tabby it would be a long way from home. If feral it's living in tough country. I guess I've got to go back and find out for sure. Park Service would be interested to know there's a domestic cat population in the park.

Camera Trap Codger said...

P.S. If the back of the ear showed a little better, we might see a white spot, which is a reliable bobcat marking. You can just barely make it out in the picture.

Anonymous said...

Tantalizing! It's true you can almost see a white spot... Does the camera give you any sense of how tall this guy is?

Camera Trap Codger said...

I think it was about 18 inches.