Long Distance Relationships with the Local Wildlife

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Our trail cameras have spied on a rich array of wildlife, including bobcats, foxes, mountain lions, coyotes and deer. Many of them are regulars—repeatedly visiting the cameras for the last 6 months.  I’ve gradually learned to recognize individuals. Through recognition comes attachment—I confess that I’ve named some of them.

These 4-legged visitors have great reasons for hanging out in front of our cameras. Through trial and error, we’ve found spots where animals are most likely to show up—safe places with plenty of water and food.

Lion walking the trail.

Lion walking the trail. Photo by Marilyn Krieger, CCBC

We’ve placed most of the cameras in areas where there are predictable resources that include food, water as well as places that seem safe from predators and other threats. Deer, rabbits and other rodents seek out high nutrient grasses and plants. They in turn, attract bobcats, foxes, coyotes, mountain lions and even domestic cats.

Cameras #5 is attached to a tree, south of Half Moon Bay, about one mile from the coast. It’s pointing up a grassy trail that leads to a creek. Animals find the route ideal for accessing the fresh water—it’s like a wildlife highway. My camera has recorded the same animals taking advantage of it every day, while others use it once or twice a week.

Deer

Meet 3Ears… I’ve been following this little one for about 5 months. Although, I’m not sure if 3Ears is male or female, I will refer to it as a female.  She’s never alone, is always with the same family group who I’m assuming include her mum and a sibling. Camera #5 frequently films her being groomed and attended to by a mature female. 3Ear’s extra ear makes her distinctive—she’s easy to pick out of a crowd. She may have met up with a predator or perhaps had an encounter with barb wire when she was a fawn or maybe she was born with 3 ears. Every month I check the camera—hoping that I catch a glimpse of her with her family munching on the abundant plants. I dread the day when she’s no longer around—I’ve gotten rather attached to her.

Foxes

Two foxes have been keeping each other company since October. They make impressive appearances at night, chasing, playing, hunting and sometimes grooming within view of the lens. Usually they walk in single file; one takes the lead, the other follows. I haven’t named them yet.

Last week the camera caught one of them with either a kit or a rabbit in it’s mouth.

Bobcat

There are other animals who also are regulars on the trail. A couple of bobcats take advantage of the cover and the rich array of rodents who have set up housekeeping. The coast camera films these alert little guys stalking prey as well as pausing, with their ears tracking subtle sounds and their eyes catching every movement. Their tails are usually in motion. I am curious if bobcats use their tails like domestic cats do, incorporating tail positions and movements into their communication system. Although, I am fully versed in the tail language of domestic cats, I don’t know much about how bobcats use their tails.

Now that it’s spring, I’m hopeful that my cameras will catch glimpses of mums with their little ones. Most likely I will name ones who have distinctive behaviors and markings—I’m sure I’ll get attached and become sad when they move on.

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