A Day At Point Reyes National Seashore

Photo of a bobcat.

A Bobcat Daydreams.

I went to Point Reyes a couple of days ago.  It had been a while.  When I arrived I quickly spotted a bobcat.  It was too far to photograph so I waited a bit to see if it would move my way.  It didn’t so I drove on.  I quickly spotted another a short distance past the first one.  See photo above.  He looked like a bobcat I used to see and photograph frequently on another ranch in 2011.  I decided to try to get closer to him.  Just as that thought came to mind a coyote moved into view behind the bobcat.  I focused on the coyote and it was quickly joined by another.  And then another.  That’s right, a pack of coyotes.  I’ve seen three coyotes together several times before at Point Reyes and assume these guys are the ones I’ve seen previously.  Usually, I only see a single coyote.

I wondered whether the bobcat saw them and so pulled my eye away from the camera back to look at him.   He certainly had.   He was doing a fast crawl toward me and my car and his belly was almost touching the ground. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to photograph him as he was already very close to the rear of my car.   I re-focused on the coyotes.

Photo of three coyotes feeding.

Hunting for Food

They were feeding on something in the soil.  I’ve seen this behavior before.  They’re definitely not feeding on rodents.  I think they’re after insects, or maybe worms, and it might be that they’re finding them under cow pies.  I’ll have to start kicking over cow pies and checking them and also checking the soil under them.  Really.  I’m curious.

After photographing these coyotes, mostly as individuals, I headed for Drake’s Bay.  One thing I look for on that trek is elk along the road to Drakes Bay.  Sure enough, a herd of bulls was hanging out not far from the intersection of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and the road down to Drakes Beach.  Two of the dozen or so bulls were in the pasture closest to Sir Francis Drake Blvd.  I wondered how they had gotten into that fenced pasture.  My first thought was they got through a break in the fence.  Then one of them started walking along the fence that separated the two pastures.  I figured the fence may be damaged somewhere along there.  I also wondered if it could jump the fence.  It looked pretty high to me.  See photo below.  It’s looks like it’s a few inches below the bull’s jaw.  I was a little worried because many wild mammals have died trying to cross fences.

Photo of bull elk abut to jump a fence.

Will He Jump?

After a moment or two I decided it wasn’t going to jump soon so I started photographing the others.   As often happens with my luck, it jumped right after I took my eyes off it.  So, I decided to stick with it and watch the other bull to see if it would jump.

A bull elk jumps over a fence.

Up and Over

By sticking with it I was rewarded.  He cleared it no problem.  Like I said though, sometimes they don’t.  I don’t think a deer could clear that. Whenever I see them cross fences they go between the strands of wire.   I’ve noticed at Point Reyes that the fencing seems to vary all over the place in terms of how high the top wire is and how low the bottom wire is.  A good wildlife fence shouldn’t be too high on the top strand or too low on the bottom strand so wildlife can go over or under them.   There are several articles on the internet about constructing livestock fences that are wildlife friendly.  For one such article click here.  As the article points out, top wires should never exceed 42 inches in height and bottom wires should never be lower than 16 inches.  Preferably, the top and bottom wires should be smooth, not barbed.

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About Jim Coda

I am a nature photographer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I specialize in photos of birds, mammals, and landscapes.
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12 Responses to A Day At Point Reyes National Seashore

  1. What a wonderful photography day you had! Amazing!

  2. TimB says:

    its the deer and elk without antlers that I usually see slipping through or under fences, the antlered males are forced to jump most often, although I have a few times seen males slip through the strands…fences are hardly ever designed with wildlife in mind, unfortunately…you can often see deer hair caught in the barbs if you look where trails meet fences

  3. Jim,
    Great photo of the elk jumping the fence. A deer (at least a White-tailed Deer) would clear that fence with no problems. A fence to exclude (or enclose) White-tailed Deer needs to be at least 8 foot tall (or even 10ft) or they still have a chance of jumping it. Many states require a 10 foot fence on deer enclosures.

    • Jim Coda says:

      Hi Mike. I like your blog. As for whether a white-tailed deer could clear that fence, I’m not sure. I’ve seen at least one photo of a dead mule deer that had gotten caught in a normal height barbed wire fence. The few times I’ve seen blacktail deer here cross a fence it’s been between the strands.

      • Thanks for checking out my blog. We don’t have dramatic scenery or wildlife around here, but nature is interesting no matter where you are.

        Deer will often cross under or between the strands of a fence because it expends less energy than jumping over them. I’ve also seen pictures of deer caught in a fence, usually it happens when a deer attempts to jump between strands (or when the deer did not know the fence was there). Since barbed wire is usually strung at intervals designed to keep horses or cattle in, the gap between looks large enough (to a deer) to jump through. A healthy adult deer can usually clear a six foot fence from a standing start. A deer (like a horse) will not usually attempt a jump unless it is fairly certain it can clear the obstacle – even if sometimes they don’t.

  4. John Wall says:

    Great catch on the leaping elk. I thought that bobcat looked familiar and checked the date on your post to make sure it wasn’t an old one. Glad it was able to evade the coyotes.

    • Jim Coda says:

      Hi John and thanks. I’ve wondered about that bobcat since I last saw it in 2011. I hope it’s the same one.

  5. Charlotte Crackbon says:

    Great pics, wow sounds like you had lots of excitment on this outing, bet that bobcat coming close
    got your heart rate up.

    • Jim Coda says:

      Thanks Charlotte. If it were a mountain lion instead of a bobcat my heart rate would have gone up, especially if I were out of my car.

      • Charlotte Crackbon says:

        I have to confess, I wouldn’t know the difference between a mountain lion and bobcat, so
        i would really been panicy, I know your not supposed to run though, just backup slowly.
        I finally got to see some coastal spots last two weekends, Bolinas and Tomales, then
        some Mendocino coastline. Of course I took pics with my little digital camera. Some not bad, worst ones are when the sunlight was right at me, but then I just an amatur so I have an excuse.

      • Jim Coda says:

        HI Charlotte. If the bobcat and mountain lion were side by side you’d know which was which. You’d also know which one to avoid.

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