Saturday, February 04, 2012

Uncle Cran's Ozark Pet: "Macavity - The Mystery Cat"

Mystery Cat?
Lower Left Quarter of Photo
(Click twice for better viewing.)

My Uncle Cran recently managed to obtain a game-camera photo of a mystery cat on his Ozark farm in northern Arkansas. You can see it in the lower left quarter of the picture if you look carefully. Here are a series of emails between Uncle Cran and his son Mark, beginning with Uncle Cran's:
Here is a new picture of our new house cat. If I could just figure out a way to put a collar on him . . .

He is either a large bobcat, lynx, or small bob-tailed cougar.

This is taken by the cave spring pond.


Mark responded:

I think that is a bobcat I've been doing a little research the spots on the body and white patches behind the ears are the markings of the North American bobcat. That's just my opinion.


Uncle Cran replied:
We were pretty sure it was a bobcat. A lynx is longer legged, with a less dense body. Most lynxes are found farther north of the Ozarks.

Part of what I said was a kind of joke, since who ever heard of a bob-tailed cougar?


Mark replied to that:
Actually, pops, there is a species of bobtail cougar. I found photos of them on the Internet, but they are a solid golden tan or reddish brown.


Uncle Cran then remarked:
Isn't the internet wonderful? Now, I find that some of my ex cathedra statements are false. I am learning something every day. But I still believe that photo was a bobcat.

Thanks, Mark.


At this point, I broke into their conversation, requesting a copy of the photo:
Dear Uncle Cran,

Could you send me the photo?


Uncle Cran complied, sending the photo and saying:

Here is a photo of a bobcat taken by our game camera recently. For the past year or so mountain lions (cougars) have been recorded on film, trapped in a cage, and at least one or two shot and killed in the areas of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Bobcats have always been in this area, and rare sightings of mountain lions have been reported for years. Black bear sightings are reported often, also. I have seen tracks possibly made by bears and mountain lions a few times. Until recently the Game and Fish Commission of both states have denied and even ridiculed such reports, until forced to acknowledge their presence.

So far we haven't seen one on our game cameras.

I'll bet En-Uk would find this interesting.


I'd always thought that a bobcat (so-called due to its short tail) had a squat, short-legged body, but I've looked on the internet and see that I was mistaken. For purposes of comparison, a bobcat is usually about twice the size of a domestic cat, or so says Wikipedia, but that bobcat in the photo above looks larger than this to me. Maybe Uncle Cran can confirm this? The remaining question is what sort of bobcat this is. The Wikipedia entry offers two likely possibilities:
1. Lynx rufus rufus (Schreber) – eastern and midwestern United States

2. Lynx rufus floridanus (Rafinesque) – southeastern United States and inland to the Mississippi valley, up to southwestern Missouri and southern Illinois

Number two seems most likely, but until we know for sure and have solved this remaining mystery, I'm calling this bobcat "Macavity, the Mystery Cat". Compare with this, too.

Readers' opinions?

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At 8:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lynx or bobcat, it is a pretty big animal. The bobcats (or lynxes, if you prefer), that I have seen are a lot bigger than tomcats. More than double in size, I believe.

Whatever it is, I wouldn't want to meet up with it, if I wasn't carrying a gun. Or even if I was carrying one, for that matter.


At 10:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I thought that this critter looked more than twice the size of a housecat.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just thought of a story I heard years ago:

Young Johnny had developed into telling big tales, and his parents were trying to break this habit, but to no avail.

One day, as his mother was entertaining friends, Johnny ran into the room and yelled, "Mommy, there's a big lion in the front yard!"

His embarassed mother said, "Johnny, I have told you that you must stop your lying. Now go to your room and tell God you are sorry, and won't do it again.

When Johnny came back, his mother asked him if he had talked to God about it. He replied, "Yes, I told God I was sorry. God told me not to feel too bad about it. When He first saw that cat, he thought it was a lion, also."

My first thought when I saw that critter was that it was a cougar, until I noticed it didn't have a tail. And so ends my tale.


At 6:04 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the humor, Uncle Cran.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:52 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Great story(s).

When I lived in southern WV and hiked there, I was told I would never see a cougar, but that they were there: I was told they like to stalk hikers but they would never attack, much less let themselves be seen. Now and then I've seen domestic cats stalk dogs and children "just for fun" in this same way, and I guess that's pretty much how cougars could behave with hikers, if this account of cougar behavior is true.

At 4:09 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'd caution vigilance with respect to cougars when hiking alone where cougars are known to roam -- carry a gun for safety. They've been known to attack and kill people. For food. They intend to be top predator, so be careful.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:18 PM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

When I told one of the criminal justice studies professors that I hiked without a gun, she went pale and said, "Are you crazy!?" But her concern wasn't cougars, she was worried about critters of the two-legged kind. Still, I never ran into any trouble, and I went on some hikes way back into the wilderness; nor did I ever hear of anybody getting into trouble, come to think of it. There were warnings about the Allegheny trail: stray off the trail and you might run into a marijuana plantation, and that could mean serious trouble with growers, booby traps, and so on.

These days it is a little bit more civilized where I hike in Ohio, but I'll ask around about the cougar situation as we are indeed on the edge of some wilderness. We have lots of coyotes, and I've seen a red fox or two. The worst critter seems to be peoples' dogs jumping up on you. "Quite frankly, sir: NO, I don't think your dog and his wet paws are cute!"

At 1:11 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Coyotes can also be dangerous. Nature just seems to want to get us . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminded me of an encounter I had back in the early 70s. When I worked at the local golf course in Horseshoe Bend, one of my jobs was to get in around 4:00 in the morning and drive a mile down a backroad to prime the pumps we used to water the greens. Of course it was always dark and more than a bit spooky, but one morning on my way back from starting the pumps an extremely large feline was walking across the road. I know it was a cougar, but no one would believe me at the time, being 17 and a bit wild myself probably did not help. After almost 40 more years, I still contend a cougar was what I saw. The facts on cougars say they used to range all of North America up to lower Canada, but are now only in the Western United States and Canada, Mexico, and South America.

I do have to ask Carter who was stalking the cougar to know the cougar was stalking a human? :)


At 6:57 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'd've believed you. My Grandpa Archie believed cougars were still around. He might've even seen tracks at the farm, which was on the end of a long dirt road and near wilderness only five miles from Lake Norfork. I remember him showing me bear tracks in a sandbar on Big Creek, and a bear even tried to get our hogs there one night while I was staying for a week or two.

Jeffery Hodges

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