Early last Sunday morning, my Mom and I were up and out early, on our way to a district VFW meeting. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and the temperature was reasonable for central Texas in January, so off we went, blissfully unaware of the carnage in the middle of our street just a few feet from our driveway entrance.
There is a small herd of deer that roams our semi-rural neighborhood, and while we don't feed them or interact with them a lot, they are as much a part of the neighborhood as the permanent human residents and everyone is aware of them. The deer romp and play in our yards, drink from our sprinklers, and nibble at some of the tastier plants and grass in our landscaping. They do what deer do. They make their homes in the thickets of trees and bushes, sometimes beneath a sheltered deck or porch, and they go on about their "Deer Business" just as we humans go on about ours. We watch out for the pregnant mamas and check their progress, we cheer on the proud little bucks as they strut their growing racks of antlers, and we carefully count the tiny spotted fawns as they venture into their new world. (We were lucky this year, we had a bumper crop of babies despite the terrible Texas drought.) The deer are our neighbors, and we all respect them and try to protect them as much as possible.
We hadn't been out of our driveway more than about 30 feet when we came to a screeching halt. In the middle of the road lay one of our "Deer Ladies", obviously deceased and pretty much worse for wear. Fortunately, the resident turkey buzzards had not gotten to her yet, but it was still a rather horrific sight for early Sunday morning. We live near the circle-end of our cul-de-sac street, so while it seems impossible for a car to have hit a deer in that space, it can and has happened. (We lost a dog right in front of our house to a careless driver several years ago.) It looked as though the deer had been hit by a car and left to die in the middle of the street. Blood, dear fur, and other fluids surrounding the deer's body left a large mark in the street. Neighbors were already out inspecting the carcass and a phone call to our local Animal Control had been placed, so there wasn't much else to do. One gentleman provided a heavy tarp to place over the deer's body to help keep the buzzards and other "critters" away from it until the Animal Control techs could come out and take her away. We acknowledged our neigbors and commented on the sadness of the occasion, but there just wasn't anything to be done for the deer, so Mom and I went off to our meeting. It was a sad and disturbing start to the day.
Late that afternoon, as we drove back into our street, we met our Homeowners Association president and her husband as they were walking their dogs. We stopped and asked about the deer incident, and were told about Animal Control's "diagnosis" of the situation. It seems the deer had been the victim of a hungry bobcat. A bobcat. Hmmm. The local university in our town claims the Bobcat as its mascot, I guess for its fierceness or something. Bobcats are relatively small wild cats, about twice the size of a large domestic house cat. They're kind of cute in a way with their little spots and cute furry-tufted ears, but I don't think I want to meet one on our very dark street when I'm hauling the trash barrel up the hill. And I'd rather it not meet up with my dogs, although I think the barking and "barroooo-ing" of four Bassets would scare the poor thing half to death. Something had scared the cat away before it had had a chance to enjoy its kill, so not only do we have a bobcat in the neighborhood, but now he's mad and hungry to boot. Not a happy camper, this cat.
Lock up your kids and small pets, folks! These little kitties like to prowl in the dusk-to-dawn hours when it's quiet. And small animals--especially small pet dogs and house cats--are particularly interesting as food sources. It's probably not a good idea to let your kids out to play unsupervised, either, although I think the noise of playing children alone would keep the cats at bay. But a hungry cat is an unpredictable one.
Poor Mr. Robert Cat. (We don't know him well enough to call him Bob...we've not been formally introduced.) He's got a problem. Our neighborhood is on the edge of a green belt and catchment dam area that serves as a rookery for the turkey buzzards, hawks, and other large birds of prey native to our area not to mention some very aggressive wild turkeys, as well as the home for the deer, possums, raccoons, rabbits, porcupines, and other small furry woodland creatures. Additionally, his territory is being encroached upon by a road-building project that won't see completion for another 5 or 6 years, and the city population is moving in the direction of the new road.
So what's a cat to do? He's got to eat, he's got to do his "wild cat thing", but where's he supposed to go? He didn't choose to have his habitat encroached upon. That just happened, and he hasn't got another place to go. While I mourn the loss of one of our "Deer Ladies", I also feel sorry for poor Mr. Robert Cat who is just being his wild cat self.
With luck, the intrepid folks at Animal Control will be able to capture him and relocate him to a more suitable environment for his evening prowls, but what of his brethren? I am actually more worried that some gun-toting nut will go out and shoot the innocent cats because one of their number had the audacity to take an evening stroll down a residential street. I'm worried that someday, the only place to encounter a "Robert Cat" will be in a zoo. How sad...for the cats and for us.