Cat tales: Big felines add zest to country living

Game camera captures a bobcat.

At 11:14 a.m. last Saturday, Tammany Baumgarten and I walked past a game camera on the Amite County Outback. At 2:02 p.m., a hefty bobcat strolled past the same camera.

An hour later, Tammany and I rode past in a side-by-side, unaware of the cat’s passage in the meantime.

I joked that it might have been stalking us, but of course in reality it would no doubt have vanished had it detected us.

Nevertheless, it’s thrilling to have such close encounters with big cats.

Tammany is a professional landscaper horticulturist who runs BaumGardens Landscape and Design in New Orleans and owns Beechnut Nature Retreat north of Tylertown.

I met her at a Scenic Rivers Alliance canoe-kayak race at Lake Walthall, and later Angelyn and I got to tour Beechnut. We returned the favor by inviting her to our place.

Tammany’s specialty is native plants. As she and I walked the Outback, she identified wildflowers as well as the butterflies that use them.

We passed the game camera coming and going. Back at the house, we ate lunch, then Angelyn gave her a tour of her flower beds and other ornamental plants.

Tammany and I rode back to the Outback to collect some wild seeds she had spotted.

It was a day or two later when I checked my game camera and saw the bobcat.

The camera had been capturing a bobcat for quite some time, usually at night. It was interesting not only that the cat appeared in broad daylight, but just a few hours after we had walked by.

another daytime sighting

Meanwhile, around 3 p.m. Sunday, Amy Cothren was sitting in her house on Old Highway 24 just east of Liberty talking on the phone when she looked out the back window and saw a bobcat in her back yard.

“It was just walking,” she said. “It wasn’t in a hurry.”

Not wanting to spook the animal, she took photos through the windows of three different rooms.

The cat was about 20 feet from a back porch under construction. It didn’t look to be very big.

Cothren used to have a German shepherd, which kept the wildlife at bay. Now she sees plenty of animals out back.

“It didn’t scare me at all,” she said of the bobcat. “I don’t know if I’m a little desensitized to all the critters that come through my yard.”

worthy of respect

When I posted a picture of my bobcat on Facebook, I got 138 likes and lots of comments. Nearly everyone expressed respect for the creature.

“It is a shame a lot of hunters shoot these beautiful animals on sight,” said C.V. Glennis. “There are not enough of them to pose much danger.”

“They have sanctuary on The Hill here,” said Greg Barron, referring to his property in Amite County.

“They eat more turkeys than the pilgrims. Quail and fawns, but I won’t shoot them,” said Jimmy Rhodus.

I share those views. However, I have to admit if a bobcat ever got one of my pet cats, I might feel differently.

encounter with mountain lion

The TV news recently featured a jogger in Utah who was confronted by a mountain lion on a gravel road.

The jogger, Kyle Burgess, filmed the entire six-minute encounter on his cell phone while walking away from the animal, which apparently was defending its cubs that Burgess had seen earlier and tried to photograph.

The news just showed a snippet of his video, so I looked up the whole thing on youtube.

The mountain lion is walking toward Burgess, snarling. It’s obviously not stalking him as prey, but instead is riled up because he had been near its cubs.

Burgess keeps talking to the cat, trying to it to leave. Amid profanities, he says such things as, “Go away, I’m big and scary! ... Go away, little kitty cat. ... Go get your babies. ... Dude, you’re scary. You’re a scary cat.”

About then the panther rears up on its hind legs, hissing, growling and slashing the air with its front claws.

“Gosh! Where’s my gun?” Burgess says. “Come on, dude. I don’t feel like dying today. ... This is scary. My heart is racing. Dude, this is not fun. ... I just wanted to go for a run. ... Go get your babies. You’re not getting me, dude.”

Finally he throws a rock at the cat and it runs off.

“Holy cow,” Burgess said, breathing hard. “Yeah, not going back that way.”

mississippi panthers

Among the comments on my Facebook page was this by Dan Jones of McComb:

“That’s a big beautiful cat — but I have seen bigger. Just wish I had a photo!”

In 2016, Dan and two neighbors saw a panther on  Little Creek Road just northwest of McComb. I went out and saw what sure enough looked like panther tracks.

Dan is one of many southwest Mississippians who are certain they have seen panthers.

On Thursday I was visiting with Pat McCullough of Ruth when he recalled seeing a panther on two separate occasions years ago. Both cats were tan.

A neighbor of his swore he saw a black one, even though biologists say there is no such thing, though there are black leopards and jaguars.

So why don’t panthers show up on our game cameras? Pat didn’t know, and I don’t either.

If you do see one, and as with Burgess the encounter is hostile, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources offers these tips:

• Stop. Never run from a cougar and do not approach the cougar.

• Maintain eye contact.

• Stand up tall.

• Make yourself look bigger by raising and waving your arms or jacket above your head.

• Talk firmly in a loud voice, back away slowly, and leave the area.

• Fight back if attacked. Protect your head and neck.

I’ll try to remember all that if I come face to face with an irate bobcat or even panther when I go walking.

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