Weatherford Democrat

Viewpoints

July 9, 2012

COLUMN: Putting the cat back in the bag

— Last week I contracted with Tim Carter Dozer Service to come down to the pore farm to repair some damage caused by the recent heavy rain we received in this part of the county. A couple of weeks earlier, we received 3.6 inches of rain in less than an hour, along with some severe winds. It made quite a mess, and necessitated a bulldozer larger than mine to resolve the problems. After repairing the critical areas, I had the operator, Wes Fain, do a little extra cosmetic work along the river bottom. He cut a creek crossing and cleared some trails through heavy brushy areas — “senderos,” as they would call them in South Texas.

Later that evening, as my wife Helen and I were checking things out on our “Mule” ATV, a beautiful bobcat came bounding across the newly cut clearing in front of us. What a magnificent specimen it was! My fat red dog was in hot pursuit, but thankfully for both of them she never caught the big cat. To me it’s a special treat to see such an elusive and beautiful creature in the wild, and in recent years, I’ve seen them quite frequently. I remarked to Helen that seeing this one bobcat was worth twice what it cost to clear the trail we were traveling.

As Parker County grows in population density and urban sprawl overtakes us, many wildlife species are finding it harder and harder to adapt to a changing environment. Yet some, like whitetail deer and coyotes, are flourishing. During my lifetime, I’ve seen dramatic changes to our wildlife. Sixty years ago we had neither deer nor coyotes. They are now our most dominant species. Although an invasive species, feral hogs are also now proliferating. Others have not fared so well, perhaps because of the success of competing species. Bobwhite quail, once a prominent player, are all but extinct, probably because of imported fireants. I haven’t heard a bullfrog, seen a horned toad, smelled a civet cat, or seen a jackrabbit in a decade or more. The environment is a very fragile thing which can be dealt tragic consequences by a seemingly minor influence.

When I was a youngster, bobcats were quite rare. Hunting pressures and farmers guarding their poultry had decimated their numbers. Today we are more tolerant of such predators, allowing them to increase in numbers. Additionally, countless deer feeders sling corn which attracts rodents, providing the bobcats a veritable smorgasbord of tasty treats. It’s wonderful to see this comeback of such a beautiful animal.

Several years back, a neighbor of mine, Dave Hale, caught a large male bobcat in a live trap. I was later told that a few of Dave’s friends gathered around that evening enjoying a significant amount of cold adult beverages and admiring his new “pet.” One of these newly created rocket scientists wagered that he could reach in the trap wearing a pair of long welding gloves and catch the bobcat. Bets were made, gloves were donned, and sure enough, he reached in there and easily caught the cat. Putting him back, I understand, was a whole ‘nuther story.

Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to nowhearthis@pwhome.com.

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