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Ghosts

December 4, 2017

 

I saw a ghost a while back. He appeared out of thin air, transformed a peaceful, bucolic scene into murderous chaos, and vanished in seconds. I loved it. It was one of the never-to-be-forgotten highlights of my experiences in the natural world. The scenario occurred in a pine thicket at dusk as I perched in a deer stand not really caring if a deer showed up or not. I was content to listen to the hermit thrushes’ harsh, going-to-bed, chirring calls from the brush, while being entertained by a cottontail rabbit foraging in a small opening. Ghosts are fast. In a blur of motion, and as I watched, he caught the rabbit and disappeared. I had not seen him before the commotion and never saw him again. The event was so startling it took several moments to conjure up a rational explanation for what I had witnessed.

On this occasion the ghost was a bobcat, a wild feline predator found throughout Louisiana. More common than most people realize, bobcats are secretive, elusive, and active during the low light times of dawn and dusk. They are also well camouflaged with yellow to reddish-brown coats marked with black spots and streaks. A large white spot is centered in the back of their dark ears. In general, they are about twice the size of a large, house cat with females averaging 15 pounds and males 20 pounds. Unusually large males have been recorded weighing 40 pounds. In motion they appear long-legged and rangy, and bigger than they actually are. The name “bobcat” is derived from the short 6 inch tail of adults. A bobcat’s diet consists mostly of rabbits, rats, mice, but they occasionally kill birds including chickens given the opportunity. They are good climbers too. The vocalizations of courting bobcats resemble the caterwauling of tom cats on steroids, more like a banshee than a ghost, but that’s still pretty scary. ©KO

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