Tag Archives: nocturnal

Bobcats in Oakridge

Bobcat walking to water; Photo Courtesy of D.Burrows, February 2013.
Bobcat walking to water; Photo Courtesy of D.Burrows, February 2013.

Bobcats, Lynx rufus are normally elusive and nocturnal, but our game cameras are picking up more instances of their presence here.  Even in the day time.  This beautiful cat was walking toward a 40 gallon water tank we have in “the back 40”, where we have a turkey feeder near-by.  There is a water barrel continuously supplying water; therefore, it has become a regular to this spot.  We are glad to be in the  cat’s territory, representing a healthy, balanced environment; they are a vital part of our ecology.

Bobcats primarily eat rabbits, woodrats, mice, squirrels, voles, gophers, birds and reptiles.   Occasionally, they will take young deer, although most likely they take advantage of carrion.   Like most cats, they hunt by stealth and are not capable of extended chases.  Their leaping pounce from cover can be up to 10 feet.

Bobcats are territorial, with the female having a home base, excluding other females.  The male’s territorial range may include the ranges of several females.   In Texas, studies indicate some 48 cats per 62 miles.  There is a “carry capacity”, of a particular area usually determined by food and water availability.  And since kittens can sometimes be killed by adult males, a natural balance can be achieved.  The bobcats also will/can adjust their home ranges to compensate for varying factors.  Like coyotes, they are consummate adapters and survivors.

Bobcat at Deer Feeder off Trails End; Photographer Unknown, 11-07-2013.
Bobcat at Deer Feeder off Trails End; Photographer Unknown, 11-07-2013.

Did you know:  running at full speed, bobcats can have a bobbing motion similar to a rabbit; they can live up to 13 years;  their natural mortality fluctuates with the seasons;  kittens purr when pleased and play like your normal house cat; typical litters are 2-4 kittens; kitten dispersal can be from 9 months to 2 years, depending on how skilled at hunting they are; they can not expect to eat well, or mate until territory established; over time, they are loyal to their established territory, marked by scat and scrapes; they spend most of their lives alone; their natural predators are humans, domestic dogs, coyotes, foxes, owls, eagles, hawks.

There is so much more to know and appreciate about this remarkable predator.

In Search of Darkness

Can you still see the Milky Way at night?  It is a beautiful sight; not something to be taken for granted in our artificially lit world.  You look outside and see a dark night; but just a few years ago, Oakridge was an undeveloped 4400 acres, a darker place than it is now.   We have in our power, as a community, to work to keep light pollution down within our boundaries and contribute to our overall environment.

I’ve just finished a new book from Paul Bogard titled The End of Night, Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light.   He covers all aspects of the increasing artificial light, often poetically.   But he raises major concerns about the effects, not only to humans, but to all our wildlife in “five primary areas: orientation, predation, competition, reproduction and circadian rhythms.”

The (John) Bortle Scale of ranking dark skies ranges from 9 to 1.  Texans probably need to drive to Big Bend National Park to get close to a dark enough night to rate a 1, or 2.   A Class 1 is described as “a sky so dark that ‘the Milky Way casts obvious diffuse shadows on the ground“.    http://www.stellar-skies.com/#!thenightskies/c44

It is a more complicated subject than you might think at first glance; an important subject I think.  Maybe as members of the community of Oakridge, we should educate ourselves to the global effort to work with the issue.  And do what we can.     http://www.darksky.org/

http://conservationreport.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/artificial-light.jpg

A quote from Wendall Berry:  “To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.  To know the dark, go dark.  Go without sight and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings, and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.”

The Importance of Bats

For a very long time, I have been totally fascinated with bats.  We have had some great experiences with bat watching; even gone into an undeveloped Texas cave for guano and stayed to experience the emergence with no one around, standing there, waving our hands above our heads as they flew toward us, missing us every time.  It is awe inspiring.

Our experiences have been with Mexican Free-tailed bats Tadarida brasiliensis, the most common Texas bat.  Probably the species you watch from your porch on summer evenings.  They are here from about February and most begin to leave for Mexico now, in August.

The 20 million or so Mexican Free-tailed bats of Bracken Cave, the world’s largest known colony, eats a quarter of a million pounds or more of insects nightly, covering thousands of square miles.  These amazing creatures emerge each evening, climbing to more than 10,000 feet, and can catch tail winds that can drive them to speeds of over 60 miles per hour to distant feeding grounds.   It almost can’t be stated enough how bats are by far the most important controllers of night flying insects, even mosquitos.

To my surprise, I have learned that joining the Mexican Free-tailed bat in our skies are 8 additional species:  Big Brown bat Eptesicus fuscus, Silver-haired bat Lasionycteris noctivagans, Eastern Red bat Lasiurus borealis, Hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus, Northern yellow bat  Lasiurus intermedius, Seminole bat Lasiurus seminolus, Evening bat Nycticeius humeralis  and Tri-colored bat  Perimyotis subflavus.

Did you know:  Bats are highly intelligent and even trainable?  World-wide, there are over 1000 extremely diverse species?  Millions of bats are dying from White-nose Syndrome?  Some species hibernate rather than migrate?  Some species are vital pollinators?  Some feed on fruit or nectar?   Not all species roost in caves?  There are no blind bats?  They do not become entangled in people’s hair?  They pose less of a threat to human health than do household pets?

Bat Conservation International was founded in Austin in 1982 by Dr. Merlin Tuttle.   Do check out this excellent site for all things related to bats   http://batcon.org/

Nuisance or Necessary?

The Common Raccoon is listed as a nuisance animal by Texas Parks & Wildlife.  This mainly nocturnal animal is considered to be a carnivore, but will eat anything you offer them.  Their average weight is from 4 to 20 pounds.  They have sharp claws and teeth, are good climbers and strong swimmers and can often be aggressive and dangerous.  Raccoons adapt easily to living around humans and will often find their way into your attic or pantry.  The raccoon can be a frequent carrier of the Distemper virus, as well as Rabies.

Let us know if you have any Raccoon stories here at the Ranch.  Send your comments and pictures to us at oakridgeranchwma@gmail.com.

Common Raccoon at Deer Feeder; Photo by Gary LaVergne_2012
Common Raccoon at Deer Feeder; Photo by Gary LaVergne_2012