It pays to be “in the now” in my line of work, but often I find my mind somewhere else and running on overdrive as I go about my ranch chores.
We keep a number of half-wild barn cats over at the ranch I manage. They usually scatter when I show up to take care of the horses and cattle. Today in the barn I was headed for the tack room to get feed for the horses when I noticed out of the corner of my eye a cat slinking behind the tractor about 10 feet away.
I had already scooped about three servings into the bucket when it finally registered that the cat by the tractor sure seemed a might bit larger than our barn cats.
And, come to think of it, it had black spots, too.
I walked back out the tack room door with the bucket in hand and a strange low growl emanated from behind the tractor. I headed for the front door in a hurry.
There’s a gate on the far east end of the building so I headed around there for a safer vantage. Sure enough, from about 30 feet away I could see that our newest barn cat was apparently a bobcat, though its ears looked smaller, its build was more slender and it was whiter than most bobcats I’ve seen. Perhaps it was a youngster.
It paced back and forth behind the tractor. Then it slipped into the workshop across from the tack room, turned around and stood with its neck out staring back at me.
I badly wanted my camera but it was at home. I thought about this for a minute then decided to drive to the house and get it. When I returned I first checked the perimeter of the barn for tracks in the fresh snow. There were no bobcat prints to be found, so I figured it was still inside.
With my camera in hand I carefully searched out the barn for the suspected bobcat, all the while being mindful not to corner it in some hiding spot. I never located the the creature, though there are a few potential hiding spots that I could not safely search out.
Sadly, what I did find were the half-eaten remains of one of our barn cats just behind the tractor. It was probably killed last night or this morning and had been covered with hay, in the style of wild felines (see accompanying photo). I left the dead cat there for now so I can tell if the bobcat returns.
No surprisingly I didn’t see any of the other barn cats around.