Repost from the old site.
A few years ago, I was driving to a major California Central Valley city for a post-operation appointment with my surgeon, when I saw a very strange roadkill beside the busy two-lane highway. When you live in rural areas, you get so you can spot the roadkills, species-wise, after a while. Most of them are the usual, and I don’t stop to look at those. But every now and again you see something unusual.
A few weeks ago, there was a dead bobcat on the road only a mile from my home. Seeing a dead one is a strange experience. You expect such a fearsome predator to be large, but a bobcat is usually only about as big as a very large house cat. It differs from Kitty in having extremely long legs and a very short snub tail.
After living here 14 years, I have only seen two roadkilled bobcats. I have seen, or heard, three other bobcats, two of them running across the highway. Sighting a bobcat is a funny experience. When you see one running, you instantly think it is a rabbit because of the rabbit-like way that it runs. Also, they run extremely fast, so you typically only get a short glance at them.
Years ago, a woman who was staying with me for a bit put some cat food out for the “outside cats” (I had seven cats at the time – five indoor and two outdoor cats). At 9:30 at night, she came running to get me.
“Bob!” she said excitedly. “Do rabbits eat cat food?!”
“Well, um, no, I don’t think so,” I answered dumbfounded.
“Well, I opened up the door and a rabbit was eating cat food, and it ran away really fast!” She was really excited.
“Huh?” I asked. This wasn’t making sense.
With some more questioning and some research in my animal books, I determined that she had actually seen a bobcat. I asked her if it could have been a bobcat, and she said, “Maybe”. A damn bobcat had come up on the porch to eat cat food, and then run away so fast that she thought it was a rabbit. Once again, note the rabbit misinterpretation due to its running style.
A couple of years after I moved up to the mountains here, I heard a disturbing bobcat tale. The neighbor across the road had a lot of ducks penned up inside a fenced area. I have no idea what he did with them. Well, one morning, he got up at dawn to silence in the duck pen. Curious, he went out to check and found 20 ducks, all slaughtered, and one fat, contented bobcat sleeping in his duck pen!
He yelled at the bobcat, the cat woke up and was gone in an instant. This is yet another report of the curious “bloodlust” behavior of some wild animals (especially wild North American cats) when they get amidst a paradise of easy kills. This bobcat killed every single duck in sight in mad bloodlust, even though he couldn’t possibly eat all those ducks.
A few years later, I was out walking at night when I approached a lake by the side of the road about 1/4 mile from my home. The lake is fenced and there are trees all around it.
I heard a loud rustling in a young pine tree and saw the pine sway. It seemed odd, like there was something too large to be in the tree hiding in the tree. I cautiously approached the young pines, staring upwards and shining my flashlight at the tree.
Suddenly, there was a loud “ROWWLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!” and one of the pines lurched towards me. It was loud, I mean real loud, and scary as Hell. I jumped back a few feet and stared at the pine, shining my light at it. After a bit, I walked away.
Thinking it over, I decided that had to be a bobcat up in that little pine. Bobcats are truly terrifying when cornered, as the American frontier phrase “Fight like a wildcat” implies, and they are capable of a “hair-raising scream”.
What’s strange is that bobcats apparently live all around here constantly in fairly good numbers. Yet they are almost never seen, like ghosts in the woods.
Anyway, back to the roadkill heading to the doc’s office. I drove past the roadkill and thought, “Damn! That was weird.” And I also thought, “Badger”. What’s weird is I have never seen a live badger in the wild and have seen only one roadkill.
But the one roadkill all it took to imprint it on my memory. I turned around and went back to the kill and got out to look at it. Badger! And on the floor of the Central Valley yet, not far from orchards and grape vines. How odd.
There’d been a tremendous amount of rain that year (my town had received 57 inches already – a very wet year), and the grass was about 3-6 feet high in this part of the Valley where I found the badger, perfect habitat for badgers. American badgers are quite a bit different from the European badgers fairly common in England.
Badgers have supposedly become rare in the Central Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills in recent years for unknown reasons, possibly due to poisoning of ground squirrels by ranchers.
Like its European cousins, the American badger is a nocturnal digger with massive claws for digging out the ground-dwelling rodents it preys on. Badgers dig huge burrows and leave big massive marks in the ground with their claws. American badgers, like bobcats, are also rarely seen.
I grabbed the roadkilled badger and threw it in the trunk on my car! Wow, am I nuts or what? Then I drove to the California Department of Fish and Game office in the big city, walked into the office and announced I had a badger for them.
A few years back, a biologist had told me to bring in any ringtail or badger roadkills I found when I told him about roadkills of these species I found. The ringtail is another animal that reportedly lives around here in good numbers but is almost never seen.
The biologists came out, opened the truck, wrapped the badger in plastic bags, and took it into the office where they threw it in the freezer. They like to examine certain wild animals, cut them up, dissect them, see what they are eating, maybe mount them, etc. Yes, the weirdo biologists around you actually encouraged me to pick up roadkilled animals and bring them to their lab.
Can you see walking in the door in the evening and your wife asks you what you did today, and you say, “Oh, I dropped off a dead badger, then I went on the doctors.”
A truly odd note about roadkills in the rural US. Reportedly, scavenging of roadkills by rural humans is such a significant problem that state governments have made it illegal!
Especially in the South, if a deer gets roadkilled, the good ole boys tend to get right on it, grab a pickup, drive to the deer, wait for traffic to die down, and throw the deer in the back of the pickup! Then they take it home, dress it, cook it up, and eat it. It’s considered “free food”. You need to live out in the woods to understand the mindset.
A friend told me a story about an elderly woman somewhere in the rural US who lived beside a highway that saw a lot of roadkills. She scavenged them right away, and was able to supplement her diet quite well. Yum yum! You never know if stories like that are urban legends or not, though.
A little known fact about badgers is that they are fantastic dancers. I kid you not! Here is some rare footage of dancing badgers in their native habitat (slow-loading file). Enjoy!