Stacey Cole's Nature Talks: Good thing for us, bobcats like to remain out of sight

STACEY COLE April 12. 2013 9:31PM

Years ago I caught a glimpse of a bobcat while walking past a steep ledge area north of the farm. My recollection is that it appeared to be a rather vicious-looking animal. In the recent past, my good friend Ted Walski, biologist for the NH Fish and Game Department, dropped in and displayed two bobcats in the back of his truck. I was especially surprised at the size of their paws.

It was easy to see that if someone came upon their tracks the day following a snowstorm, after their edges had melted a little, it could appear they were those of a larger animal.

Bobcat (Felis rufus), also known as wildcat, is considered the smallest member of the cat family in North America, even though it gives the appearance of weighing more than it really does. An adult usually weighs somewhere between 15 and 20 pounds. However, individual animals have been recorded as being much larger. Helenette Silver in her book, "A History of New Hampshire Game and Furbearers," copyrighted by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department in 1957, wrote: "Two species of Lynx are found in New Hampshire - the bay lynx, Lynx rufous, commonly known as wildcat or bobcat, and the much rarer Canadian lynx, Canadensis canadensus, usually called simply lynx. In size they are similar, although the lynx appears larger. The weight record for bobcat in this state is 51 pounds (NH Fish & Game Department, 1935)."

I've heard it said that it takes a tough man to lick his weight in wildcats. Frankly, though, I've never met a man who told me he hankered to try it. Tangling with a bobcat would be risky enough, but doing battle with as many as would match a man's weight? Wow! That would take a tough man, indeed. Bobcats are renowned as vicious fighters. Their claws are piercing and they have long canine teeth that are as sharp as needles. Actually, people have little to fear from bobcats as they are furtive animals that like to remain out of sight.

Recently, Ted mailed me a photograph of a mother bobcat and her three young. All four animals were pictured sitting quietly on Darling Road in Keene. I couldn't believe my eyes as I had never seen more than a single bobcat as noted above.

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In my "Nature Talks" column of March 30, I gave a brief review of "Birdwatching, A Guide to Birding in the Granite State," written by Eric A. Masterson. Recently the publisher mailed me a copy, and now I am equipped to add a few additional comments.

After holding the finished product in my hand, I must first say that the publisher's promotional comments, quoted in the earlier report, were accurate when they wrote: "Birdwatching in New Hampshire, is a guide to when, where, and how to see the best of the state's birds with tips on how to recognize the best birding weather, how to choose the best birding optics, and how to find the best birding locations."

Drawing on his extensive knowledge of the habits and habitats of New Hampshire birds, Masterson has divided the state into six regions, each with a rich diversity of birdwatching destinations. The guide also features informative accounts of the more than 300 bird species regularly seen in the Granite State, including preferred habitats and graphs illustrating when each is most likely to be encountered."

I shall add that with respect to most "field guides," readers frequently skip to the page depicting a particular bird and do not stoop to read the author's "Introduction."

In the case of "Birdwatching, A Guide to Birding in the Granite State," to do that would be a big mistake.

Masterson's book is not just another "bird guide." It is very different and to use it appropriately, it is important to understand the how and why it was put together. For example, the individual maps of locations in New Hampshire where different species of birds may be found is based upon the history of where they have been found. Masterson's background of 12 years in the field of environmental conservation, including eight years at New Hampshire Audubon certainly qualifies him to advice his readers when they are searching to locate a particular bird.

After reading through the book itself, I wished it could have been available during the years that I was able to travel throughout our beloved New Hampshire. Masterson has created an excellent set of tools that, if used as he intended, I am sure, would have helped me build up my "life list" of bird sightings, to a greater length.

"Birdwatching, A Guide to Birding in the Granite State," 6 X 9 inches, 232 pages, 47 color photos, 46 maps.

Now available from book sellers and at the University Press of New England, One Court Street, Lebanon, N.H.,03766, Priced at $23.95, soft cover, and $22.99 ebook.

Stacey Cole's address is 529 W. Swanzey Road, Swanzey.

Nature Talks

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