The pictures show a seemingly unhurried creature sauntering through Angela Conrad’s backyard on Wednesday evening. But Michael Boudreau, a Department of Natural Resources human wildlife conflict biologist, saw something else — a superior predator and survivalist that has adapted to the often-intrusive behaviour of humans.
“You’ll notice that there is a bird feeder in the backyard,” said Boudreau. “The cat went to the feeder and it knows that there’s either rats, squirrels, mice or birds there. It smells like it and the cat’s checking it out as one of its regular routes. You and I would say it’s just cavalier, kind of strolling along, but it’s likely hunting, just by the fact that it’s walking the edge and ready to spring.”
And it came as no surprise that the bobcat didn’t venture far from the treeline bordering Conrad’s property.
“They like that edge effect. You’re not necessarily going to see a cat out in the middle of a 100-acre field, but you’re going to see it along the edge; that’s where the food is. They are a great survivalist. They’re so secretive but most people never get the opportunity to see them. They can live in amongst us and we don’t even know they’re there, for the most part.”
Besides the Cape Breton Highlands, bobcats are common to every region of the province. The problem is seeing one.
“I have not seen many but I’ve seen lots of signs. I know they’re around. You don’t get that opportunity to see them very often. For the most part, people don’t get to see cats like that. It’s a thrill when you do.”
It was for Conrad, who snapped a striking photo of the creature Wednesday evening. She and her family were sitting down for supper when her husband suddenly alerted her.
“I turn around and there’s this enormous bobcat walking across my yard,” recalled Conrad. “So three of us pull out our phones and start taking pictures, of course.”
Conrad had just enough time to grab her Canon and capture a shot of the cat staring right at her.
It lingered for about three minutes and then disappeared in the woods.
“I tapped on the window and it looked right at me for a moment and it was beautiful. Something I hadn’t noticed, it has leopard spots, which surprised me. I always get a kick out of a bobcat because their heads look disproportionately smaller for their body size. This tiny little head on this enormous body.”
According to Conrad, bobcat sightings aren’t entirely rare in the area, but it was the first time she’d seen one in the outdoors.
While bobcats don’t pose much of a threat to humans, pets are a different story, said Boudreau.
“I think that holds true for every wild animal,” said Boudreau. “You should have control of your pets. Letting them out in the backyard to do their business is never a good thing.
“But bobcats have no problem getting their own food. They don’t need to be fed. They can survive amongst us or survive in the deeper woods.”