Camera Trap – A Bear, a Butt, and a Bobbed Tail

I wish more of my camera trap shots were like this one of the black bear that passed through my yard several times during the summer and early fall, but, alas, they are rare.

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Every Sunday I bring the camera in from the back fence to see who walked by during the week.  Lately, there hasn’t been anything to get excited about, but as I studied my recent photos I did notice a couple of things.

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At first this seemed to be a mundane picture of a deer’s butt, until it occurred to me that it could help answer a question about the deer that  frequently saunter through our backyard: are they mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) or white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virgineanus)?

Maybe it should have been obvious from this picture I took through the screen door this summer–those are some awfully large ears–but I wasn’t certain.

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The best way to tell the difference is from the back.  White-tailed deer have white tails and mule deer have white tails with a black tip.  Now I know.

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I had to take a second or third look before I noticed the bobbed tail in the lower left-hand corner of this photo.  It brought back memories of the only bobcat I have ever seen outside of the zoo.   It was a warm mid-September Saturday in 2010.

My cousins, Tristan and Sean, were visiting and their five kids were having a great time exploring our wooded yard.  The adults were inside drinking coffee and planning the day’s activities, when the quiet of the morning was shattered by a scream. 

We all ran outside and discovered that Drew, the youngest, had tried to leap over a prickly pear cactus, but misjudging the distance had landed in the middle of it.  His family gathered around to comfort and help, but the misery of the cure was worse than the fall.

After the barbed spines had been removed and the tears dried, Tristan and her daughter, Grace, sat on the porch swing while I stood talking to them.  When Grace pointed, we fell silent.  A bobcat walked, discreetly and deliberately, along the fence line, just passing through, paying no attention to us.   

Better than any picture that I have ever taken is the memory of that tawny, spotted cat with tufted ears and bobbed tail, padding through the yard.

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