• jjvanm

Anita’s Blog – Passive photography; active scenes

Updated: Jun 28

The resaca level was way down, creating a shoreline around the water at our end of the horseshoe lake. I took advantage of the shore, hopped off the retaining wall and strapped a field camera around a nearside piling under the dock.


There were a lot of tracks on the damp shore – large canine tracks that might be coyote, numerous racoon tracks, bird tracks, but no bobcat tracks that I could discern -- that would be for the passive camera to capture and let me know what goes on when I’m not watching.


Before the sun went down that first day, I saw a large dog shoot off the retaining wall next to where I had jumped down. That was most likely the culprit of the canine tracks; also, probably a routine occurrence now that there is access for a pack of dogs that inhabit the area across the water from our property. However, the camera captured only one dog-like image one night close to midnight. Not anything identifiable.


Unidentified critter. Photo taken via field camera.

The most exciting photo was that of a bobcat, taken at 10 p.m. three days after I’d installed the camera.


Bobcat captured on field camera

I thought at first it was a feral cat until I looked closely at the front legs which seemed thick and sturdy; the paws also were large for a domestic or feral cat. In the second photo, although it looks like the face of a sweet kitten, the tufts at the tip of the ears show it to be a bobcat.


Bobcat

Interestingly, the bobcat had no place to go except to jump up the four feet of the retaining wall and into our lower back yard – certainly something to think about what it might be doing or where it would go. For clues, I re-visited the article I wrote January 2021, after the only other bobcat sighting. You can review that post at this link: https://rgvctmn.org/blog/anitas-blog-abundant-but-rarely-seen/


I suspect this recent bobcat is younger than the bobcat I photographed 18 months ago. Last fall, when the resaca water receded after a freak yard-flooding event, the fishing dock was left with a layer of muck. Tracks that looked decidedly like bobcat showed an animal walking to the end of the dock as if it were to get a drink of water and then padding back beside the initial tracks then off the dock onto the yard and to points unknown.


This is my second field camera. It was worth the purchase from a local Harlingen sporting goods store. The clerk was a tremendous help, doing all the initial technical set up for me.


During this last three-week period where I had the camera pointed onto the resaca shores, there were approximately 250 photos taken. Probably 230 of them were of raccoons, doing whatever raccoons do at night with no supervision.


Curious raccoon captured via field camera

Raccoons are not our friends. They are curious, unique and intelligent creatures, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Internet literature, but that endorsement doesn’t endear them to me. They are everywhere in Texas. They will hole up in abandoned buildings, cars and other structures. They will take over any hidey-hole that isn’t regularly occupied or visited. They also like brushy and wooded areas near streams, lakes and swamps, but have adapted well to human habitats. They have excellent night vision and an acute sense of hearing, are agile climbers and strong swimmers.


Our little acreage outside of San Benito is perfect for them. We have resaca water, banks, woodsy areas, marsh, tall weeds and brush. And if that isn’t enough, we have a farm field adjacent. During our first year on the property, we found corn cobs on the roof and holes in the screens at the attic. After ensuring no raccoons were inside, we secured all possible critter entrances.


Raccoons can be seen during daylight hours for various reasons, primarily foraging for enough food to feed their young. Normally, though, they are mostly active from dusk to dawn. What they do in the water looks like fun time at the swimming hole, but they are probably searching for food. They grasp food from the bottoms of water bodies. They eat water insects and aquatic invertebrates, fish, small rodents, frogs, bird eggs, carrion and human garbage. They also eat fruit and nuts. They can climb trees and corn stalks and probably a lot of other things we don’t want to think about.


My husband and I have been seeing an odd-looking raccoon on the opposite bank of the resaca during the daytime. It has a thin body and long legs which make it seem tall. Someone across the way has stashed a couple of tires on their side of the resaca. Although the water is going down, one particular tire is still mostly underwater. Our lanky raccoon splashed up to the tire, hopped in the center and twirled around and around for about five minutes, climbed out and walked on toward the forest.


Long-legged raccoon during daytime. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Raccoon taking time off to play in a submerged tire. (Photo by Anita Westervelt)

Raccoons are preyed upon by coyotes and bobcats. A female raccoon can have up to four cubs a year. Raccoons can live 10 to 15 years in the wild. We’ve had a family of three, for about ten years. The new critter cam seems to show they’re still hanging around – and they’ve brought friends.


Raccoons, although annoying, are protected by Texas laws. Check out Texas Raccoon Laws for detailed information.


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