HANAHAN — All of a sudden a bobcat was there, sniffing along the edge of a subdivision drainage pond in the evening light.
The ponds holds some big gators. Coyotes occasionally turn up. But in 11 years, Frank Cloutier never had seen a bobcat in his backyard, much less the muscular adult he stepped out Wednesday to photograph.
“He was just wandering along the edge. He wasn’t spooked by my presence. Just a healthy, confident cat,” he said. No, it doesn’t alarm him, Cloutier said, although it looked like it could take any dog in the neighborhood. “There are alligators in that pond that are eight feet. They’re a good deal more threatening as far as I’m concerned.”
And in fact, the bobcat’s appearance in the Ibis Glade subdivision near Goose Creek Reservoir is nothing unusual in the Lowcountry.
The adaptive native cat has taken to suburban life, where its small-game prey is found. The cats live on the fringes of most major cities in the country. Bobcats are found throughout South Carolina but are thought to be abundant in the coastal plain, where the heavy forest gives them cover and prey, according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
But they are well-camouflaged, sneaky and rarely give themselves away.
“They live in among people. They’re just a little harder to see than the average animal,” said DNR wildlife biologist Jay Butfiloski.
“Bobcats are everywhere,” said Kiawah Island wildlife biologist Jim Jordan, who tracks the island’s fawned-over population of a few dozen. On the island, they have turned up on golf fairways and driveways, under verandas and even outside the glass door to Town Hall.
There are a few explanations why the wild cat came out in the open: it could be a male looking for a mate a little late in the season, a mom or a pregnant female scavenging for extra food. But the more likely explanation, both Butfiloski and Jordan said, is simply that it was out.
Bobcats are the size of a small dog and look like domestic cats, except for the “bobbed” or seemingly cut-off tail they are named for. But with feral eyes, black lined and spotted fur, they are unmistakable as a wild animal.
The bobcat is one of those alpha creatures whose presence signals a healthy ecosystem.
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