G. Sam Piatt
The bobcat had lived in the woods of central Greenup County for maybe six or seven years. His food supply included squirrels, rabbits, and field mice.
Perhaps he was able now and then to climb a tree in the dark of night and grab a wild turkey off the roost, or catch a young and foolish jake on the ground before it could take wing and escape his claws.
He might have even at times been able to bring down a small deer for a fulfilling meal that would satisfy his hunger for days.
If security is lax at farms in the valley he’ll help himself to a calf, chicken or young pig.
But if pickings are lean, he’ll settle for road kill lying along rural highways.
But early last month this particular bobcat’s days of prowling for food came to an end. He fell victim to a trap set by Cecil Hurst Jr.
Hurst, 58, of Slash Branch, said the magnificent specimen of a wildcat is off to the taxidermist.
He brought the cat in to nearby Maynard’s Hardware. Owner Mark Maynard and others who saw it estimated its weight at 35 pounds.
Hurst has been hunting and trapping bobcats for years.
“Back quiet a few years ago, you might not even see one, but over the past few years there seems to be lots of them,” he said.
The bobcat’s den is usually a cave or rock shelter, but a hollow tree may also serve as home. The mating season is late winter. Litters numbering from one to six kittens are born in the spring.
They begin eating solid food at two months and begin hunting on their own at five months.
In Kentucky, both the hunting and trapping seasons for bobcats opened in November and will run through Feb. 29.
The limit is five per hunter per season, with no more than three taken by gun.
Bobcats, named for their short, bobbed tail, rely on stealth and patience until close enough to capture their prey with one great leap.
WITNESSING AN ATTACK
Judge Walter C. Lytten (retired) of New Boston once watched a bobcat attack a deer while Lytten was bass fishing from a boat on Eastern Kentucky’s Yatesville Lake, where the shoreline is bounded by deep woods.
Here’s how he described it in an email to me:
“I was about 40 feet off shore casting in to the bank when I heard a racket about 100 feet up on the steep bank. I saw a young deer come tearing down the hill at full speed, with a large bobcat on its heels.
“When the fawn got to the water’s edge it circled back up the hill with the bobcat getting closer with each stride. The fawn circled back toward the lake and the bobcat pounced on its back, bringing it down and holding it by the throat at the edge of the lake right in front of me.
“The bobcat and the fawn were both exhausted and the bobcat seemed to be resting while gripping the fawn’s neck.
“When all this first began I laid my rod down and grabbed my camera. I got my camera up and turned it on as the mother deer came charging down the hill. She attacked the bobcat with her front hooves.
“The bobcat immediately climbed a tree a few feet away and the mother deer was so concerned for her fawn she did not see where the bobcat went. All the while it was 20 feet above her.
“The first picture I took was of the mother deer standing by her fawn and having not found the bobcat up the tree, she was staring at me, I guess to determine if I was a threat.
“The mother deer nuzzled her fawn and checked it all over and after a minute or two she was able to get the exhausted fawn up the hill. All the while the bobcat is up the tree staring down on them.
“After a minute the bobcat climbed down from the tree and walked up the hill following the same path of the deer. I whistled at the bobcat to try and get it to turn toward my camera. All it did was growl and keep walking. The bobcat was no doubt tired, hungry, and it had lost its meal.
“I have fished off and on for forty years and I practice catch and release. Each time I come home from fishing my wife always asks if I caught any fish and if so where are the fish. This was the only time I have ever taken my camera fishing to prove to her that occasionally I do catch fish. I am sure glad I took my camera on that day, the Day of the Bobcat.”
Reach G. SAM PIATT at (606) 932-3619 or [email protected]