Or so we thought. We were actually in the midst of saying outloud how much owls look like cats — owls, I think, are just cats with wings — when we realized it wasn’t an owl at all, but a bobcat. It was sitting up on the crossbar, too small to reach across both wires and be electrocuted, looking down at us with a vexed expression.
Photo op. We knew it couldn’t fly off, like most owls will do when you stop and get out of the car, so we got out and set up tripods in the 24-degree desert chill and took photos of the cat looking this way and that, though mostly looking cold and miserable.
What was it doing there? A favorite sleeping loft? Treed? We weren’t sure.
This morning, while stopped along East Steens Road for some photography, we ran into the manager of the Juniper Ranch, a congenial fellow named Bob. When we told him about the bobcat on a power pole he said he’d never heard of such a thing. Maybe a young one, he said, chased up there by the coyotes, which are out and about in unprecedented numbers this year. (This is true. We’ve practically been tripping over them this week.) “We lost 10 percent of our calves to coyotes this year,” Bob said. “I don’t want to shoot them all, but….”
OK, back to the bobcat. I emailed a copy of the photo above to Duncan Evered, who (with Lyla Messick) runs the field station. He said the cat is, in fact, young, and has been hanging around the station for the past few weeks.
The cat, he wrote, “likes to climb our tree in the afternoons…and drop onto chipmunks.”
Cats, it seems, will be cats.
Harney County is extraordinarily beautiful right now. The fall colors are exquisite, the weather is mild and there is no one here. Perfection.
PS: The cat apparently got down OK. It’s no longer up a pole.