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This blog is predominately about camera trapping in California. We camera trap to save our souls and to teach primary school students about biology and conservation. We will also touch on other camera trapping news and musings, sets from afar, mediocre herpetology, sucky birding, and other natural history discussions.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Great Cheek-Rubber Mystery

The other week I uploaded some videos to show my 6th graders the results of the camera that they set up. One video in particular that they enjoyed showed a bobcat rubbing its cheek on the camera itself.

Later, a question was raised by a fellow camera trap warrior - was this a bobcat? Could it actually be a domestic cat?
I had just assumed that any feline-looking creature captured by our cameras would be a bobcat. The thought that a domestic cat would be wondering around wild West Marin never entered my mind.

I then began to ask the simple questions that lead to bobcat identification -- does it have black tufted ears, spotted coat, black barring on the legs, etc.

The video offers few answers, with its low quality and limited view of the animal.

You also see a somewhat bushy tail and a compact body -- allowing for the domestic cat thought to remain, but a final decision still inconclusive.

It is here where the still camera 25 feet down the trail becomes our ally.

6 minutes earlier (according to the timestamp) a bobcat comes up the trail towards the video cam.
When reviewing previous data, however, a discrepancy between the internal clocks is observed of about 6 minutes, in favor of the video cam. This is determined by comparing shots that show the IR flash of each camera and a similar capture, whether it be with animal or a blank scene.

Still, the case is not solved. Perhaps these are two separate visits, with the bobcat close behind, tracking its cousin?

Luckily our cheek-rubber visited the video cam two other times. The still camera also made captures at similar times.





A close look at the 12.2 video offers up this washed out still:
black barring on hind leg?

This is all the evidence.

What say you?

Just another bobcat, or a bold and curious domestic cat off on adventure?


  1. There's a spot on the back of the ear, which says bobcat. The tail looks long but that's the effect of the wide angle at close range. Don't think this one is a pussycat.

  2. I agree with the Codger that it is probably a bobcat. The spot on the ear, plus the size is a good indicator also. I've got a Marin set that gets a lot of domestic cats and bobcats, and it is usually possible to tell which the images are of, even if the images are washed out, just based on the larger size of the bobcats. How high up was your cam posted? On a side note, I was surprised how many domestic cats (known owners etc.) made fairly regular excursions pretty far onto open space - day and night.

  3. I still can't make a call. The second 2 vids seem much more bobcatty to me than the first one. That magnified tail swish in the first vid just seems soooo house catty.

  4. Bay Laurel, I meant to bring out a measuring tape last weekend when I was out at the set, but had grabbed the wrong bag.

    However, seeing the set and its position on the tree, and then later that day at home looking at the height of my cat - I am solidly in the bobcat camp.

  5. My vote is with Laurel and Codger, for sure Bobcat. White ear spot. Black spot on tail with white ending and size of tail (this is not as good of evidence to me as the ear spots). Great capture for sure!