In south Texas, a fence poses no hurdle for a mother bobcat

Bobcat jumping through fence


Each afternoon as the Texas sun sank toward the horizon and long shadows painted the terra-cotta patio, a mother bobcat emerged from her den beneath the ranch house where I spent summer 2017. For weeks, the routine was the same: Three lanky kittens trailed behind, catapulting themselves into the thick air and speeding around like electrified Ping-Pong balls. Once they tired, they’d congregate around a water bowl while she’d gently groom them, pulling ticks from their fur and licking them clean.

Then, as if called by a distant dinner bell, “Momcat,” as I called her, would leave her offspring and make her way toward one spot in the fence surrounding the property. Sometimes slowly, sometimes hastily, but always meticulously, she would thread herself through a 6-by-6-inch wire square: One paw clearing the fence, then another. Her body followed without a sound. All other bobcats I’d seen simply jumped over it.

For photographers, it can be difficult to document the lives of wild animals in a small, localized landscape. Privy only to Momcat and her kittens, I spent day in and day out trying to make creatively different images around the den site—a challenge when the environment doesn’t change.

The fence leap was her signature move; it took me weeks to figure out how to photograph it. I knew I’d never get the shot in person, so I attached my camera to a gorilla pod and set it up parallel to the fence. Each day, I’d sit with a remote trigger and fire from the patio. And each day, I’d hope that the heat wouldn’t shut down the camera, that the trigger batteries wouldn’t die, and that Momcat chose the right square. Of the hundreds of images I took, only this one was perfect.

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