Cats and Deer

This past week, the roadkill deer leftovers went into the back field with a trail camera to see what was lurking and the result was some awesome footage! The bobcat is a local resident, and most likely the one prowling after my goats and sheep. This video is amazing because you see one of our apex predators eating a blacktail right in front of some blacktail. It was not the only footage of deer and cat together. Below is another captured shot of fascinating behavior on the part of the deer. You see the cat move through, then a few moments later, the deer come through, as though stalking the cat. It seems a little suicidal for the deer to be following the cat, but it’s actually to their advantage to pressure the bobcat.

When a predator comes around, the prey have two choices: fight or flight. The deer know the cat has food. He’s fed and content, not interested in chasing down live deer when there’s a dead one right there. The deer are posturing to let the cat know they are strong and healthy, not something to think of as vulnerable food.

You can see in the first video, both animals communicate with tail flicks. It’s really cool behavior to catch on film. Those tail flicks are like a human shouting match in my mind. The cat keeps eating and the deer move on cautiously. I can only imagine the pressure both animals are feeling in that moment.

Chances are, because the dead deer was found at the head of our road, that it’s part of this greater herd of deer, maybe even a relative. The blacktail are determined to push the cat out of the area, and keep up the fight reaction by stalking the bobcat as he moves through the territory. Both species overlap and live together in a very delicate balance. Can you imagine living with a known murderer of your family and having to make things work? Wild animals don’t have time to let their hangups hinder survival, they just flick a tail and move on. Wish we could be so survival focused sometimes.

The bobcat is beautiful, and this is his territory. The challenge is keeping him from coming after my livestock. A dead deer carcass is one thing, but this cat has taken my sheep and goats before so there is part of me struggling with what I should do. I’ve got a trapping license and could catch the cat, but then what? Relocation feels foolish, as studies show taking a wild animal out of its home territory and dumping it in an unknown space puts the animal at enough of a disadvantage that it usually dies before establishing it’s bearings. Killing the bobcat is legal, but I know if I take out this cat, another will soon come to fill its place. That’s the nature of things, human pressure can only do so much.  Thinking my meddling will eliminate this natural cycle is conceded, to say the least. Instead, I try to keep the balance, taking my goats out of the situation and leaving yummy snacks out back so the cat stays away from the upper land near the house where chickens and goats live.

I don’t fear the cat. I could sit back there and watch him without an issue, if I’m lucky enough to see him. Bobcats are not a threat to people, except in extreme situations where they feel they can’t leave. Fight or flight works for predators in the same way. Wild cats are shy, they don’t want to be around people. This bobcat took the time to move the kill site away from the camera. He eventually dragged the carcass away from being filmed. I’ll write another post about that behavior next.

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