A bobcat stopped to rest in my back yard the other morning, giving me a rare opportunity to take some photos. Bobcats hunt at dusk and dawn, spending the night and day hiding and resting. They are solitary animals. Whenever I've seen one, it has been on the move, walking or trotting stealthily, eyes scanning the desert for a quick meal. They rarely hold still long enough for a portrait.
Their diet consists primarily of rabbits and rodents, of which there are many in the Sonoran desert. This particular bobcat stalked a rabbit for several minutes, carefully creeping up on it in the hope of catching it by surprise. But the rabbit spotted his hunter and escaped. Unperturbed, the bobcat stretched out in the morning sun and took a quick nap. There is plenty of food available this time of year, enough to make a hard chase after a wary rabbit unnecessary.
Some friends from another country were visiting recently and commented on the remarkable abundance of wildlife in southern Arizona. The desert is alive with birds, rabbits, rodents, lizards, snakes, and some larger mammals like coyotes, javelina and deer. Even the occasional hungry mountain lion has wandered through the neighborhood looking for dinner.
During the hottest hours of the day, many of these animals find shade beneath dense tangles of brush, in shallow burrows, or in the branches of the trees. As the sun drops, they come out seeking sustenance.
Owls and hawks watch silently for scurrying movements on the ground. Coyotes sniff the air for the slightest interesting scent on the afternoon breeze. Herds of javelina, the fearless urban gangs of the desert, have learned how to dump over garbage cans for a quick snack.
The desert is like a huge, fast-food restaurant. Everyone arrives hungry and scans the menu for the special of the day. With the exception of the cougars, pretty much every hungry guest is also an entree on somebody else's combination plate.
As more people have encroached on the desert, predatory animals like bobcats, coyotes, snakes and gila monsters have been killed or scared away, causing the mouse, rat and rabbit populations to explode. Limited food supply probably keeps the rabbits under control, but keeping the pack rat numbers down requires trapping and a constant lookout for new middens.
I could use the help of a few more bobcats. Here's hoping this one decides to move into the neighborhood.