Jumper the Hare arrived at school a little late and quite out of breath from hurrying. His big soft eyes were shining with excitement. “You look as though you had had an adventure, Jumper,” said Mother Nature.
“I have,” replied Jumper. “It is a wonder I am here at all; I almost became Yowler the Bobcat’s breakfast and it makes me shiver just to think of it. I guess if I hadn’t been thinking about him, he would have caught me.”
“Would you tell us all about it?,” requested Mother Nature.
“Well seeing Black Shadow the Cat over here yesterday, and knowing that today’s lesson was to be about Yowler, I couldn’t get cats out of my mind all day yesterday,” began Jumper. “Black Shadow is too small to worry me, however I must confess that if there is any one I fear, it is Yowler the Bobcat. Just thinking about him makes me nervous. The more I tried not to think about him, the more I did think about him, and the more I thought about him, the more nervous I got. Then just before dark, on the bank of the Laughing Brook, I found some tracks in the mud. Those tracks were almost round, and that fact was enough to tell me who had made them. They were Yowler’s footprints, and they hadn’t been there for very long.”
“Of course, seeing those footprints made me more nervous than ever, and every time I saw a leaf move I jumped on the inside. My heart felt as if it were up in my throat most of the time. I had a feeling that Yowler wasn’t far away. He goes sneaking about, without making a sound, or else he lies in wait, ready to spring without warning on the first one who happens along. A fellow never knows where to watch out for Yowler.”
“I spent nearly all night sitting under a little hemlock tree with branches very close to the ground. I sat there because I didn’t dare do anything else. As long as I stayed there I felt reasonably safe, because Yowler would have to find me, and to do that he would have to cross an open place where I could see him. I knew that if I went roaming about I might walk right into his clutches.”
“It was lucky I had sense enough to stay put. You know the moon was very bright last night. It made that open place in front of where I was hiding almost as light as day. Once I closed my eyes for just a minute. When I opened them, there was Yowler sneaking across that open place. Where he had come from, I don’t know. He hadn’t made a sound. Not a leaf rustled under his big feet. Right in the middle of that open place, where the moonlight was brightest, he stopped to listen, and I simply held my breath.”
“Can you tell us what he looked like?” prompted Mother Nature.
“He looked just like what he is–a big Cat with a short tail,” replied Jumper. “Just to look at him any one would know he was a cousin to Black Shadow. He had a round head, rather long legs, and was about twice as big as Black Shadow. His feet looked big, even for him. On the tips of his ears were a few long black hairs. His coat was yellowish to reddish-brown, with dark spots on it. His chin and throat were white, and underneath he was white spotted with black. There were spots all down his legs. His tail was whitish on the under side and had black stripes on the upper side, and all the time he kept twitching it just the way Black Shadow twitches her tail when she is out hunting. All of a sudden he opened his mouth and gave such a yowl that it is a wonder I didn’t jump out of my skin. It frightened me so that I couldn’t have moved if I had wanted to, which was a lucky thing for me. The instant he yowled he cocked his head on one side and listened. That yowl must have wakened somebody and caused them to move, for Yowler turned suddenly and crept swiftly and without a sound out of sight. A minute later I heard a jump, and then I heard a fluttering. I think he caught one of the Grouse family.”
“Yowling that way is one of Yowler’s tricks and how he got his name,” explained Mother Nature. “He does it for the same reason Hooty the Owl hoots. He hopes that it will startle some sleeper so that they will move. If they do, his keen ears are sure to hear it. Was that all of your adventure, Jumper?”
“No,” replied Jumper. “I remained right where I was for the rest of the night. Just as daylight was beginning to steal through the Green Forest, I decided that it was safe to leave my hiding place and come over here. Half-way here I stopped for a few minutes in a thick clump of ferns. I was just about to start on again when I caught sight of something moving just back of an old stump. It was Yowler’s tail. Had he kept it still I wouldn’t have seen him at all; however he was twitching it back and forth again. He was crouched down close to the ground with all four feet drawn close together under him. There he crouched, and there I sat for the longest time. I didn’t move, and he didn’t move, save that foolish looking tail of his. I had begun to think that I would have to stay in that clump of ferns all day when suddenly Yowler sprang like a flash. There was a little squeak, and then I saw Yowler trot away with a Mouse in his mouth. I guess he must have seen that Mouse go in a hole and knew that if he waited long enough it would come out again. As soon as Yowler disappeared I hurried over here.”
“That was a splendid account of Yowler and his way of hunting,” said Mother Nature. “He does most of his hunting in just that way, sneaking about on the chance of surprising a Rabbit, Bird or Mouse, or else patiently watching and waiting beside a hole in which he knows some one has taken refuge. He hunts in the Green Forest exactly as Black Shadow, Farmer Brown’s Cat, hunts Mice in the barn or Birds in the Old Orchard. In the spring Yowler eats many eggs and young birds, both those found in nests on the ground and also those in nests in trees, for he is a splendid climber.”
“Yowler is found in nearly all of the swampy, brushy and wooded parts of the whole country, excepting in the great forests of the Far North, where his cousin Tufty the Lynx lives. Yowler is himself a Lynx, the Bay Lynx. In some places he is called simply Wild Cat. In others he is called the Catamount. He is not so fond of the thick forests as he is of swamps, brush-grown hillsides, old pastures and places where there are great masses of briars. Rocky ledges where there are caves in which to hide and plenty of brush also suit him. He prefers to hunt at night, and once in awhile he is seen in broad daylight. Mrs. Bobcat’s kittens are born in a cave or in a hollow tree. Despite the fact that he is an expert climber, Yowler spends most of his time on the ground and is primarily a predator of Rabbits, Mice, Squirrels and ground Birds.”
- What sounds does a barn cat or house cat make? Which of these sounds do Bobcat’s make too?
- What animals can you name that make sounds to startle their prey? What animals can you name that stay silent and still to catch their prey?
- Visit this LINK to see a bobcat and more information provided by Mass Audubon Society.