Sometimes the area around Rockton, La Farge and Viola are referred to as "wildcat country". No, not because there's wildcats all over the place but because Wildcat State Park is near Rockton and La Farge high school and the students are known as the "fighting wildcats". A wildcat is a term often used for a bobcat in the old day when there were still some in the Kickapoo Valley. There are some other cats down river in Viola, not forgetting the fighting Panthers of Kickapoo High.
All this feline thought started when a friend gave me a snap-shot that his game camera had taken. It was taken at night after the last snowfall. To my surprise, it looked like a bobcat that had tripped the camera line and was walking away when his picture was taken. My friend thought it looked like a lynx but I couldn't tell without my glasses. Upon further inspection at home with a magnifying glass I could see the clue I needed to tell one cat from another. The large cat in the picture was walking away and I couldn't see his face or chest but I could see the large paws and a 5 or 6 inch long tail, tipped with black. That's where the difference is; the black comes down over the top oat the tip of the bobcat's tail with white underneath. The tip of a lynx's tail is tipped all the way around with black. Other than that, the two wildcats may have very similar markings with the lynx being slightly larger and a more grayish-beige coat. The bobcat may vary in color from grayish-beige and brown to light orange with dark brown spotting.
From time to time, I hear reports of someone who spotted a wildcat in the River Valley area. Or someone heard a wildcat scream in the night and it made their hair stand up on the back of their neck.
The bobcat in the photo was probably a lone male that was just wandering, looking for food, like he always does. They are very solitary animals, especially the males, who don't help at all with rearing the young.
A large male bobcat may weigh 30 pounds or so, while a male lynx may be 10 pounds heavier. It's hard to know first hand about these beautiful wild cats when you never see them. Deep down, I've never doubted there were real sightings of wildcats in the area over the years, although I hadn't seen one. Now that I've seen this photo of one, I'm keeping an extra sharp eye open, knowing that the photo was taken only a half-mile from my house.
The southeast corner of the state got up to 16 inches of snow the other night. Over on this side of the state, we didn't get any. I had planned on doing some tracking in the new snow but the white stuff missed us. All I wanted was just enough snow to track a cat in.
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