2019-01-19 / Outdoors

INSIDE THE OUTDOORS

Deer’s demise traced to bobcat
Jim Zoschg


Caught on a trail camera at daylight, this large bobcat was a frequent visitor to a southern Potter County food plot throughout summer and fall. Bobcats can, and sometimes do, kill whitetails they can handle, usually yearlings and fawns. Caught on a trail camera at daylight, this large bobcat was a frequent visitor to a southern Potter County food plot throughout summer and fall. Bobcats can, and sometimes do, kill whitetails they can handle, usually yearlings and fawns. During bear season, some of the crew I hunt with stumbled across a recently killed deer in a large boulder field down in a steep hollow. It was a button buck, this past year’s fawn, but was nearly the size of a full-grown doe.

It was lying on top of most of the snow pack, but a few more inches of snow had fallen afterward, covering over the tracks of whatever had killed it.

The guys who stumbled across the kill said they had observed that the deer was partially fed upon. The predator later kicked snow over the carcass to bury most of its body.

A few specks of blood were visible on its neck. My cousin John said that he could feel punctures in the animal’s neck from the predator’s teeth.

At the end of the day, we put all of the clues together and concluded that the deer was ambushed by a bobcat.

Bobcats are notorious for killing fawns in the spring. However, when presented the opportunity, a bobcat will ambush and kill an adult deer.

We didn’t know how big the cat was that killed this deer, but it is likely that the deer was about three times the size of its killer.

Bobcats have been documented to ambush a deer, grabbing it by the neck with their mouth. They hold on to their grip as the animal struggles, even runs. Soon the cat has the deer’s air cut off. Then, it is only a matter of time. The teeth puncture marks on the neck of the deer that my hunting buddies found were consistent with this characteristic of bobcat kills.

Nearly two decades ago, when the Pa. Game Commission and Penn State University were studying fawn mortality in the Quehanna Wild Area, I remember reading about one of the characteristics they used when identifying a bobcat as the predator.

Cat predators cache the carcass of the prey that they have killed in order to return to it later to feed. They scratch and kick leaves and other debris to bury its body.

Interestingly, just about all of the deer that fell prey to bobcats in the Quehanna study were very young, within a month or so of being born. Yet, one at was a ten-month-old yearling who was in good health.

So, it can happen and does happen here in the big woods.

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