A brief note on the crows

Initially this post was going to start off a series on the crow roost in Burlington, but Eva Solberger covered that for me in her 7Days Stuck in Vermont piece. Eva and I went out last week on a crow safari and tracked the crows to their roost over at the UVM Pump House/Reservoir (you can check out the video of our adventure below). So instead of crows, I’ve got an awesome video of a very special guest here in Burlington.

Introducing…our very special guest

It’s always exciting to stumble upon some secret little stash while out in the woods. And over the years, I’ve stumbled across lots of geocaches, fairy house, forts, and occasionally a trail camera. I even found a set of my car keys about 5 years after I lost them! A few weeks ago I came across a trail camera in Centennial Woods in Burlington. And then I started finding them all over Centennial Woods (The Baader Meinhof Phenomenon).

A few days after finding the first camera, I day stumbled across a deer carcass. Jed Murdoch and his UVM students already found the carcass and had set up a couple of trail cameras pointed its direction. His TA, Caitlin Drasher suspected cause of death: bobcat (their class had caught a bobcat on a camera nearby in the days before the deer had been killed).

The deer kill site. The deer was dragged by the bobcat from the left down the slope where it got hung up on the log (photo courtesy of Sophie Mazowita)

It seemed so wildly improbably that a bobcat would be in Burlington (I’ve never seen tracks from one in Centennial Woods in the 12 years I’ve been tracking here, but perhaps I just need to look a little closer at those house cat tracks…). It also seemed crazy to imagine such a small predator taking down something maybe 5 times its size (they’ve been known to take down prey up to 8x their size: source).

With my CCV students, we set up a trail camera over by the Patchen Road Bridge over I-89 and I was stoked to have gotten a short video of the bobcat (see below). The quality’s akin to those Sasquatch videos, but was proof positive that there is indeed a bobcat in Centennial Woods. Right around the time we caught our bobcat on the camera, Declan McCabe of St Mikes captured a photo of a bobcat using a nearby culvert under the interstate.

Our bobcat over by the Patchen Road bridge over I-89.

I mentioned last week that I had gone out with the City and Lake students on an exploration of phenology and natural history. While out on our adventure, we found a spot under the hemlocks where a deer had bedded down and then relieved itself. We set up a trail camera on the spot (map) in the hopes of capturing the deer in action. I’ve had lots of luck in this small little spot capturing gray and red foxes, raccoons, woodchucks, deer, and skunks, so it seemed like a pretty safe bet that we’d get something, especially with the warm weather in the forecast. The camera was only out for a few days, but I was pleased as punch when I checked the videos (see below).

Likely the same bobcat that’s been hanging out in Centennial Woods in Burlington for about a month, this over by the retention pond

Estimating Size

One of the things that I was curious about was the size of the bobcat. It’s pretty tough to get a sense of the scale of the cat as it moves through the frame, so I tried juxtaposing an image of a gray squirrel from the same camera with the bobcat. Gray squirrel bodies are about 10-12″ long, and so it looks like the head of the squirrel is probably about 20″ off the ground (the snow was not all that deep under the hemlocks). Using the squirrel as a guide, it doesn’t look like the bobcat’s more than 15-18″ at the shoulder, which would put this on the average to small end of the bobcat should height range (12-24″). Females are significantly smaller than males, so it’s possible that this is a female. That’s a pretty rough approximation, so I wouldn’t put much money on that bet.

Trying to get a sense of scale, image of a squirrel taken from the same spot

Resources on Urban Bobcats

Some Resources on Urban Bobcats
  • Estimating bobcat population size using non-invasive techniques (link)
  • Influence of roads, range of bobcats in urban areas (link)
  • Estimates of bobcat pop’n in a small urban area (link)

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