I was tooling along back home the other day, and caught a glimpse of something on the side of the road that I instinctively declared, “A leopard?!” and slammed on the brakes. Nothing was coming, and we so seldom see roadkill leopards, even out at Brownspur, that I wanted to examine this one more closely. Sure enough, it was a golden color, with very distinctive black spots. But it had a bobbed tail. I estimated it weighed close to 40 pounds, which would make it a very big bobcat, which is obviously what it was.
Of course, it had been hit by a vehicle some several hours before, and it was 100 degrees, so some unnatural swelling was present, yet I could tell by the length and height that it was an exceptionally large bobcat, of a most unusual color. Generally, our bobcats are brownish-gray with spots that blend in more than they stand out. The ruff around this cat’s neck was somewhat darker than gold, more tawny. He was absolutely beautiful, and my first thought was to get him into a freezer, then to a taxidermist.
That thought lasted just as long as it took me to roll him over with my foot. WOW!
A skunk’s perfume is nectar, compared to the stink I unleashed! I jumped back in the pickup, gagging, and stomped the accelerator. A half mile down the road, I pulled over again and got out to wipe the bottoms of my shoes on the roadside grass, but there was no residue on my shoes – it was just a lasting odor!
Another mile with the windows down, and I was finally able to breathe. Yet it struck me: what a waste! This was the most beautiful bobcat I was ever going to see, probably, and there was no choice but to let him rot by the roadside. Nor would I have shot him, if he had come by while I was in the woods on deer stand, for I’ve never been one to shoot predators, except wild dogs and coyotes. I’d rather watch them, and have saved up many wonderful memories of bobcats, wolves, panthers (which the Game & Fish people say we don’t have, so these were probably figments of my imagination), Russian boars, bear, alligators, red & timber wolves, and the lesser predators: coons, foxes, possums, mink, otters, skunks and others, right here within 50 miles of Brownspur!
Later on that day, I saw a big coyote lying beside the highway as I traveled north. I didn’t stop for it, nor mourn, as I had for the bobcat. Coyotes have become such a pest out here at Brownspur…. Well, having said that, let me back up and say that they used to be such pests out here at Brownspur, but someone or something has solved that problem for the past few months. We’ve not heard the coyote packs this summer like in years past, when one could step outside late at night and hear three packs running simultaneously. Don’t know what’s happened, unless a neighbor has taken drastic measures. We did have some professional coyote trappers come through last winter, and maybe they did a number on our local population.
One early May morning, my neighbor across the road shot, obviously a deer rifle, and then came over to explain. “I was sitting there drinking coffee, and saw something move in the cane patch in front of your well tank. It walked out and stretched, like it was just getting up, and made its morning constitutional as I scrambled for the binoculars, thinking it was a dog. It wasn’t – it was a big coyote, and he must have spent the night in your cane patch, right in front of your house! Then he starts trotting up the turnrow that runs by my house, and I reached for my rifle. That was the shot you heard: he won’t be spending the night in your cane any more!”
That’s getting ‘way too familiar with human habitation, but explains why we haven’t been able to keep cats around the house.
Yet I got to cogitating: I didn’t atall mind seeing the coyote roadkill, and actually appreciated Jim shooting the bold one in my cane patch, but I actively grieved for the bobcat by the side of the road. Nor would I have been offended if he had shot a big bobcat coming out of my cane patch, in order to mount it. I wouldn’t do that myself, but I understand if other hunters want to, in order to preserve the beauty of the animal for their own den and family pleasure.
Of course, it’s nobody’s fault, when they hit a bobcat, or coyote, or deer, with a speeding car. Usually, there’s no time to dodge, and dodging is dangerous. But there is no harm in grieving for the beauty that has been taken from us, when that happens. Selah.