Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Who Scrapes There?

The first time a bobcat goes by the camera in this time period is November 12 near first light.   
A few days after I posted the Puma Scrapes story, I took a hike with my neighbors. To celebrate each new year, we take a hike across our rural neighborhood, usually from one house to another. On this year's Cuppa Sugar Hike, we found a fresh scrape on a trail at the edge of a wooded area.

"What animal left this mark?" we wondered. Especially since the scrape was unusually shaped, more of a square than a rectangle, and with a long narrow scat at the back.

"No problem," I said, "I've got a wildlife camera mounted just uphill. We'll check which animal went by after the rain five days ago and then we'll know."

This scrape is 10 x 10 cm. The scat is 10.5 cm long x 2 cm wide, has an oily sheen to the surface and is lightly covered with fir needles. The scrape and scat are placed in the middle of a wildlife trail at the canopy edge of a large Douglas fir near a spring in open grassland. The branch on the left side of the scrape may have affected how the animal kicked up dirt with its rear paws.
But the camera mysteriously stopped taking photos fifteen days earlier. The best we can do is look at what animals paraded past the camera in a six-week period and then predict which one might have visited again near New Year's Eve and left the lopsided scrape.

Ten different types of animals went by the camera in November and December 2015, many revealing distinct patterns to their travels. Here they are in general order from small to large size.

California quailCallipepla californica - a covey of nine shows up once in the daytime.

Red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus - lands on the right side of the trail one day and then quickly flies off. The strong white-black checks on its back indicate what type of hawk this is.

Dusky-footed woodrat, Neotoma fuscipes - appears 5 times*, nighttime only, jumping across the trail with its long tail out.

Western Gray SquirrelSciurus griseus- appears 6 times, daytime only, usually poking through the thick pile of Douglas fir cones on the ground.

Striped skunk, Mephitis mephitis - wanders by five times at night, sometimes traveling towards the camera and sometimes away.

Brush rabbit, Sylvilagus bachmani - the most frequent visitor, appears 26 times and always at night. Two rabbits occur together on one night. Browsing or sitting across the field of view, each rabbit photo series usually starts or ends with the rabbit on the right-hand side of the trail indicating its shelter occurs in the tangled understory there.

One rabbit on right-hand side of trail.
Two rabbits on the trail.
Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana - One opossum occurs one night, then two occur another night.

Bobcat, Lynx rufus - a bobcat passes by the camera seven times in six weeks at night, dusk or dawn. There are probably two different bobcats that use this route. Notice in the photos below that the right eye of one bobcat does not reflect eyeshine to the camera's LED lights (12/4 and 12/13). That eye may have a cataract or otherwise be injured.

This is the bobcat which appears to have an injured right eye.
Black-tailed deer Odocoileus hemionus columbianus - walk towards water (away from the camera) in a group of 3 one day, than a single doe on two other days.

Puma, Puma concolor - passes by the camera on only one night in this November-December period. It has a distinct dot on its right muzzle and both its ears looked nicked on their tips. The dot may be a tick and may or may not show up in future photos. I looked through my hundreds of photos of pumas on this and adjacent properties and did not see any that clearly showed the eartip nicks.

I think the scrape was probably made by a bobcat whose smaller paw didn't budge the stick. Maybe the one-eyed bobcat is unbalanced and leaves lopsided scrapes. In any event, I will keep photographing and measuring scrapes for future comparison, especially if I have a wildlife camera nearby.

Which animal do you think left this scrape?

*Any observation of the same species separated by more than one hour is considered a separate observation.


  1. Wow. Super cool stuff. And I like your theory. I'd have to do some research to make a REAL guess, but I'll take yours. =) Great photos, and very interesting re: right eye injury in the bobcat & how it affects how it reflects light.

  2. NICE!! Really liked this presentation style with its cast of characters. This IS one busy trail so I hope you are able to keep that cam going!

  3. Yes, good set. As you know, I'm a fan of sets (and write-ups) that show the breadth of animals in an area. I think your choice of bobcat is spot on too. One potential diff I've been noticing that I wonder if you see too - I think bobs tend to dig a pit and poop in it, and then maybe scratch stuff over it, much like house cats. But lions seem to more often just poop and then scrape over it.

    1. I just looked at a series of fresh bobcat scrapes and they were mostly a scrape with uncovered scat dropped in the bare spot, or a scrape without scat at all (not in the bare spot and not covered up in the pile of cast material). I'm fairly certain that series was all by the same bob since they were all in a straight line along the edge of a dirt road so that raises an additional question as to whether there is more difference between individual animals than species. I think we need photos to continue this conversation. Can you believe we talk about stuff like this?


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