Monday, December 22, 2008

Mute Swans (Cygnus olor)

A native of northern and central Eurasia, the Mute Swan was introduced into North America to grace the ponds of parks and estates. Escaped individuals have established breeding populations in several areas, where their aggressive behavior threatens native waterfowl.

These swans are very large, all white with an orange bill and black face. Their wingspan can cover up to 94 inches. Sexes look alike, with males slightly larger and with larger knob on bill.

They are not mute like their name suggests but their calls are quiet and do not carry. They make a snorting "heorrr" and ca hiss aggressively. Wings make singing noise in flight.

As an introduced species it is of concern because of its effects on native wildlife. Its aggressive nature can disrupt the nesting of native waterfowl. It is protected in some states, but not others. Some states are attempting to control Mute Swan numbers.

Some cool facts about Mute Swans:

Downy young Mute Swans (called cygnets) come in two color morphs: a gray form and a white form. The gray (or "Royal") chicks start off with gray down and grow in gray-brown and white feathers, giving them a mottled look. White (or "Polish") chicks have all white down and juvenile feathers. Adults of the white morph may have pink or gray legs and feet instead of black, but otherwise the adults look alike.

The Mute Swan is reported to mate for life. However, changing of mates does occur infrequently, and swans will remate if their partner dies. If a male loses his mate and pairs with a young female, she joins him on his territory. If he mates with an older female, they go to hers. If a female loses her mate, she remates quickly and usually chooses a younger male.

The black knob at the base of the male Mute Swan's bill swells during the breeding season and becomes noticeably larger than the females. The rest of the year the difference between the sexes is not obvious.

The information above if from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Tiny Montreat

You know when you have arrived in Montreat when you pass through the stone arches at the town line on Route 9 outside Black Mountain. Located about 15 miles east of Asheville the tiny town of Montreat, shortened from mountain treat, sits in a beautiful spot of wilderness. With a population of about 700, the town covers only 2.8 square miles. Of the 4,000 acres of this, 2500 is dedicated as a wilderness preserve, a National Heritage Area. It backs to the Pisgah National Forest, Mount Mitchell and more.

The town is home to Montreat College, a Presbyterian Liberal Arts college and the Montreat Conference Center.

For over 100 years, Montreat Conference Center has been “a place set apart” for spiritual rest, renewal, and recreation. Here are some historical highlights:

1897 – The Rev. John C. Collins, a Congregational minister from Connecticut, with a group of other clergy and lay leaders, purchased 4,500 acres in the mountains of western North Carolina. Their vision was to build a Christian settlement, a mountain retreat – shortened to the name “Montreat” – where people could come for physical and spiritual renewal. Montreat held its first “Christian Assembly” in July, 1897, with nearly 400 participants housed mostly in tents.
1900 – The Montreat Hotel was erected; ready for occupancy in 1901.
1905 – The Presbyterian Church (US) purchased Montreat under the guidance of Dr. J.R. Howerton, a minister from Charlotte, NC. The transfer of property was endorsed by the PCUS General Assembly in 1907.
1906 – The Montreat Presbyterian Church organized with a membership of 25.
1907 – The first Presbyterian conference was held in Montreat.

One of my favorite things to do in Montreat, besides enjoying the lovely surroundings and the unique architecture of the old stone buildings, is shop. The college has a great gift shop featuring music, crafts, cards, gifts and of course books. This is located next to Lake Susan below the walkway.

Another store not affiliated with the school is housed above the bookstore. Ten Thousand Villages features handmade items from over 130 artisan groups in more than 38 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to bring you fair trade jewelry, home decor, gifts and more. Fair trade enables artisans to earn a fair wage and provides the opportunity for a better quality of life. What could be better than shopping to support the school at Montreat or to help third world countries?

The Conference Center also boasts 18 hiking trails, 7 tennis courts, Robert Lake Park for children and Lake Susan for paddle boating canoeing and fishing. it is a great place to come for a few hours, to walk, enjoy the scenery and shop.

For more information check out

Swans of Montreat

Two new swans took to Montreat Conference Center’s Lake Susan like …well, like ducks to water. After their release last Thursday afternoon, the pair calmly swam off to investigate their new home, clearly unruffled by their ride to the conference center.

“The swans are a gift from CeCe and Thad Ellett,” explained Polly Cameron, director of the Montreat Conference Center Annual Fund. “One of our previous swans had died shortly before the Elletts came to visit the conference center a little over a year ago,” she continued. “Saddened to see the remaining bird, nicknamed “Elvis,” swimming alone, CeCe decided to donate a new pair in celebration of the Ellett’s second wedding anniversary.”

A pair of swans serenely patrolling Lake Susan has long been a tradition at Montreat Conference Center. Left alone, as Elvis was after the death of his partner, a solitary swan can become increasingly aggressive and territorial, making it impossible to introduce a single new swan to the lake. “We coaxed Elvis to shore Wednesday evening,” Cameron said, adding that, true to his name, Elvis was attracted to the women calling to him from the shore and paddled in willingly. He was safely placed in a crate and taken back to enjoy a long and happy “swan retirement” at Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Center, an 8-acre avian breeding preserve in Scotland Neck, NC, that is home to over 180 species of birds – more than half of the world’s known species of ducks, geese, and swans – along with cranes, pheasants, parrots, and other exotic birds.

The two new swans are also from Sylvan Heights.

(from recent Press Release from Montreat Conference Center)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Book Review: Asheville Mountain Majesty by Lou Harshaw

It is a cool rainy day in the mountains - a good day to sit near a warm fire and read a good book. I bought this book for my husband last Christmas and started it a few months ago.

It reads more like a history book - full of facts and photos of the origins of this eclectic mountain city. Harshaw literally begins with the earliest geological data of this western most region of North Carolina, the first settlers and then continues through each period of history.

As a newcomer to this area, I find the book most interesting. The photos give me a better idea of what this place was like as it was founded, progressing up to this date. The prominent residents are featured as the history unfolds during each decade.

It may be a little dry reading for some but it does depict the local history of a town very well.

A Man and an Eagle

This story has been circulating on the Internet a while now but in the spirit of the season and in honor of animals I wanted to add this to my blog. To see photos and the actual wildlife rehab center where Jeff works go to Enjoy!

For a list of wildlife rehabbers in NC go to

Freedom and Jeff
Freedom and I have been together 10 years this summer. She came in as a baby in 1998 with two broken wings. Her left wing doesn't open all the way even after surgery, it was broken in 4 places . She's my baby.

When Freedom came in she could not stand and both wings were broken. She was emaciated and covered in lice. We made the decision to give her a chance at life, so I took her to the vets office. From then on, I was always around her. We had her in a huge dog carrier with the top off, and it was loaded up with shredded newspaper for her to lay in. I used to sit and talk to her, urging her to live, to fight; and she would lay there looking at me with those big brown eyes. We also had to tube feed her for weeks.

This went on for 4-6 weeks, and by then she still couldn't stand. It got to the point where the decision was made to euthanize her if she couldn't stand in a week. You know you don't want to cross that line between torture and rehab, and it looked like death was winning. She was going to be put down that Friday, and I was supposed to come in on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't want to go to the center that Thursday, because I couldn't bear the thought of her being euthanized; but I went anyway, and when I walked in everyone was grinning from ear to ear. I went immediately back to her cage; and there she was, standing on her own, a big beautiful eagle. She was ready to live. I was just about in tears by then. That was a very good day.

We knew she could never fly, so the director asked me to glove train her. I got her used to the glove, and then to jesses, and we started doing education programs for schools in western Washington . We wound up in the newspapers, radio (believe it or not) and some TV . Miracle Pets even did a show about us.

In the spring of 2000, I was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma. I had stage 3, which is not good (one major organ plus everywhere), so I wound up doing 8 months of chemo. Lost the hair - the whole bit. I missed a lot of work. When I felt good enough, I would go to Sarvey and take Freedom out for walks. Freedom would also come to me in my dreams and help me fight the cancer. This happened time and time again.

Fast forward to November 2000, the day after Thanksgiving, I went in for my last checkup. I was told that if the cancer was not all gone after 8 rounds of chemo, then my last option was a stem cell transplant. Anyway, they did the tests; and I had to come back Monday for the results. I went in Monday, and I was told that all the cancer was gone.

So the first thing I did was get up to Sarvey and take the big girl out for a walk. It was misty and cold. I went to her flight and jessed her up, and we went out front to the top of the hill. I hadn't said a word to Freedom, but somehow she knew. She looked at me and wrapped both her wings around me to where I could feel them pressing in on my back (I was engulfed in eagle wings), and she touched my nose with her beak and stared into my eyes, and we just stood there like that for I don't know how long. That was a magic moment. We have been soul mates ever since she came in. This is a very special bird.

On a side note: I have had people who were sick come up to us when we are out, and Freedom has some kind of hold on them. I once had a guy who was terminal come up to us and I let him hold her. His knees just about buckled and he swore he could feel her power coarse through his body. I have so many stories like that.

I never forget the honor I have of being so close to such a magnificent spirit as Freedoms.

Hope you enjoy this.


Bald Eagle

I was driving through the mountains heading north to Boone and noticed an eagle flying overhead. I looked like a bald eagle but I had not seen one in this area before. When I lived in on the coast Florida I would see them daily. Doing some research, it seems there is a pair living on the shore of Lake James in Marion and I probably saw one of that pair. Keep an eye out when you are driving on Hwy 221!

The bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), our national bird, is the only eagle unique to North America. The bald eagle's scientific name signifies a sea (halo) eagle (aeetos) with a white (leukos) head. At one time, the word "bald" meant "white," not hairless. Bald eagles are found over most of North America, from Alaska and Canada to northern Mexico. About half of the world's 70,000 bald eagles live in Alaska. Combined with British Columbia's population of about 20,000, the northwest coast of North America is by far their greatest stronghold for bald eagles. They flourish here in part because of the salmon. Dead or dying fish are an important food source for all bald eagles.

Bald eagles were officially declared an endangered species in 1967 in all areas of the United States south of the 40th parallel, under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Until 1995, the bald eagle had been listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 43 of the 48 lower states, and listed as threatened in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Washington and Oregon. In July of 1995, the US Fish and Wildlife Service upgraded the status of bald eagles in the lower 48 states to "threatened."

On June 28, 2007 the Interior Department took the American bald eagle off the Endangered Species List. The bald eagle will still be protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. The Bald Eagle Protection Act prohibits the take, transport, sale, barter, trade, import and export, and possession of eagles, making it illegal for anyone to collect eagles and eagle parts, nests, or eggs without a permit. Native Americans are able to possess these emblems which are traditional in their culture.

Christmas at the Biltmore, Asheville

I have lived in Newport RI where the other smaller Vanderbilt mansion is along with many wealthy summer homes from the turn of the century. They are all open for tours at a much reduced fee. Needless to say I was not biting at the bit to tour yet another mansion from the gilded era.

Some friends visited from out of state and offered to take us on the Christmas Candlelight Tour of the Biltmore. How could I refuse something for free? So off I went.

It was the weekend after Thanksgiving and a cold rainy night. Thankfully another friend had warned that lines waiting outside can be long and cold. We dressed for the night but still the rain was a damper along with the crowds. I would suggest not going on this weekend but earlier in the month or later.

We finally got inside and it was a bit warmer. It is self guided with a pamphlet describing the rooms you are visiting. I was disappointed in not having more staff on hand to talk about the rooms and answer questions. I guess it would take much longer to get everyone through that way. The only live tree in the house was in the Banquet Hall on the main floor. It was immense and decorated with huge ornaments.

No photos are allowed to be taken except for ones taken by staff of visitors in front of the holiday decor in one of the smaller rooms on the main floor. You can pick the photos up on your way out.

Ballerinas performed excerpts from the Nutcracker Suite in the Winter Garden room but the din of voices was so loud we could not hear the music. Carolers were situated on the front steps to entertain you while you wait to go inside and others were alternating with the ballet troupe in the garden room.

The house was lit with electric candles and fires in the fireplaces. The bedrooms on the second floor were decorated with smaller trees and sprigs of greenery. The ornaments and decorations were not of the time period but rather looked like from Wal-Mart.

The servants quarters are open to tour which is different from many mansions of this time period. I found that most interesting along with the basement which houses the pool, kitchen and other servants quarters. The holiday decor in these rooms was more like what it would have been in the early 1900's with popcorn garland and simple tree ornaments.

We took the last Candlelight Tour so the gift shops and cafes were closed when we finished. I would suggest taking an earlier one to take advantage of these places.

You can visit during the day for the Christmas Tour minus the candle - it may well be worth the entrance fee at that time of day to be able to visit the Winery and River Bend Farm. The estate covers 8,000 acres with hiking trails, horseback riding trails and lots to see and do.

The holiday tours run through January 4, 2009. For more info call 1-877-BILTMORE or check their web site

Lake Julian Festival of Lights, Asheville

We tried once before but could not find the right entrance to Lake Julian Park to see the lights. We found it in daylight and went back last night.

This is a great treat for the kids. The driveway through the park, passes the boat dock and concession stand, following the lake shore and is lit on both sides of the road with festive holiday displays. From moving reindeer to a jumping fish, it is a colorful sight and a fun evening for the kids.

The park is located off Hwy 25 south of Asheville, just beyond Earthfare. Go right on Long Shoals Road and take the second left entrance once pass Pomodoro's. The drive loops through the park and comes out at the lower entrance.

The lights are on from 6pm until 9pm from 12/5 through 12/19. A portion of the proceeds go towards Buncombe County's Special Olympics. Cost is very affordable - $5/car, $10/van and $20/bus. For more info call 684-0376.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas at the Grove Park Inn, Asheville

Old friends from out of town visited us over the Thanksgiving holiday. Since they are in the tourism business, they stayed at the Grove Park Inn and invited us to come by on the Friday after Thanksgiving for the tree lighting ceremony.

It was a zoo to get there for the get together. We did find a parking space and squeezed into the grand but very crowded main lobby. It was beautifully decorated with a roaring fire in the huge stone fireplace. Normally I find the lobby very cold temperature wise but that night it was toasty with the fire and all the people crowded inside.

Saint Nick made his entrance and settled in to read aloud Twas the Night Before Christmas to the many children waiting for the tree to be lit. It was hard to hear over the din but his costume was splendid. A nice change from the usual red Santa outfit. Once the story was told, the tree was lit with much fanfare and children lined up to get their photos taken with St. Nick.

We ordered drinks and occupied one of the Mission style tables to listen to the band sing holiday favorites sprinkled with mellow music from days gone by. The kids were up dancing with a great many others. It was a wonderful way to begin the holiday season.

The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa opened its stately doors in 1913. As an award winner of AAA's Four Diamond award Grove Park Inn is known for its legendary service, authentic Arts & Crafts d├ęcor, and its grandeur. The resort overlooks the Asheville skyline and provides majestic views of the legendary Blue Ridge Mountains. Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa offers 512 guest rooms, including a club floor, themed suites, exquisite dining options, a world-class Spa and a famed 18-hole Donald Ross golf course. For more info call 828 252-2711 or go to

Grove Park Inn's 16th Annual National Gingerbread House Competition and Display

This was the second year we have gone to the Grove Park Inn in Asheville for the Gingerbread House Display. It was overwhelming at the amount of entries and the fierce competition amongst them.

This is an annual event at the Grove Park for the 16th year. All of the entries are on display either at the Inn or downtown at the Grove Arcade. The technique and imagination of this year's entries is amazing. It is often hard to believe that these creations are edible. I particularly like the teen and children's division - they seem to create the type of gingerbread houses that I remember from my childhood. Less on technique and more candy involved - the way it should be I think.

The competion features entries from four age levels - adult, teen (13-17), youth (9-12) and child (age 8 and under). Close to 400 entries were submitted this year.

The Grand Prize Winner was Billie Mochow from Burns, TN. Her entry will be sent to NYC to be featured on Good Morning America on December 18.

For more info go to The houses are on display Monday - Thursday for non hotel guests until January 11. The Grove Arcade houses are on display daily.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Goat Herding

Across the street from us in our narrow valley is a goat farm of Nubian dairy goats. I love seeing them graze in the pasture below our home and have gotten quite attached to them.

One morning last week, I looked out and the herd was looking to the west in the pasture instead of grazing. I followed their gaze and one old billy goat had gotten out and was sauntering down the road out to the main drag. Horrified he might get hurt I jumped into the car and drove over to try to corral him. He was confused and very docile - probably wondering why he was outside the fence. By clapping, yelling and nudging him from behind, I got him headed back into the pasture. It seems like the wind the night before had caused a tree branch to break off and fall on the fencing wire, dropping it to the ground level. Mr. Goat had simply stepped over the fence and out he went!

I was unsure what to do since more would get out if I walked the mile or so to the house of the owner. Another neighbor was driving by on his way to work and stopped to see what the commotion was. He was sweet enough to offer to call the owner for me. Sure enough he came down in his truck and fixed the fence although he seemed surprised that I had come over and herded the goat back inside. I guess I am an animal rescuer - no matter what kind.

I thou hgt you might want to know a little bit about the goats!

The Anglo-Nubian, or simply Nubian in the United States, is a breed of domestic goat.
The breed was developed in Great Britain of native milking stock and goats from the Middle East and North Africa. Its distinguishing characteristics include large, pendulous ears and a "Roman" nose. Due to their Middle-Eastern heritage, Anglo-Nubians can live in very hot climates and have a longer breeding season than other dairy goats. Considered a dairy or dual-purpose breed, Anglo-Nubians are known for the high butterfat content of their milk, although on average, the breed produces less volume of milk than other dairy breeds.

Anglo-Nubians are large, with does weighing at least 135 lb. (61 kg.) and 175 lb. (79 kg) for bucks. The minimum height of the breed, measured at the withers, is 30 inches (76 cm) for does and 35 inches (88 cm) for bucks.

The typical Nubian is large in size and carries more flesh than other dairy breeds. The Nubian breed standard specifies large size, markings can be any color, the ears are long, pendulous, and the nose is Roman. The Nubian temperament is sociable, outgoing, and vocal. Because of its elongated ears and sleek body, the Nubian is occasionally nicknamed the "Lop-Eared Goat" or "Greyhound Goat".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas Tree Farms

It is that time again - flocks of people from the flat lands drive into the High Country to buy their holiday trees from the abundant farms scattered throughout western North Carolina mountains.

This region is known for its Fraser Fir trees that grow only at elevations higher than 3000 feet. They are a dense evergreen with soft short flat needles, fragrant aroma and long lasting needles. It is true - I have had one up until past Valentines Day. I hated to take it down since it looked as good as new. I decorated it with heart garlands and Valentine cards and candy. My husband insisted that February was the latest it could stay up even though I had ideas of what to do for St. Pat's day!

Choose and cut signs dot the two lane roads, some offering hot cocoa or cider while you choose. Others have hayrides, sleigh rides and all sorts of festivities for the kids. I grew up in New England with tree farms around me there too. It was an ordeal but a fun one - picking a tree, cutting it down with a small hand saw and dragging it to the car, tying it on the roof and off you went. Here in North Carolina they do all of it for you. It begins the same way -you hike around the farm and choose a tree from the many perfect specimens. But once you do that your job is done. They escort you back to get your hot cocoa and then they head to your tree with a chain saw, cutting the trunk close to the ground. The workers pass it through their bundling machine wrapping it in a mesh plastic for easier transporting and then they haul it to and put it on your car for you. It think the new way takes the fun out of it!

This year is also the third time in four years that a North Carolina Christmas tree has graced the White House in DC. The chosen tree was a 23 year old Fraser Fir that stands 21.5 feet tall and is 12 feet wide. Some 30 other smaller trees will grace the Capitol buildings and this year all of them come from North Carolina.

So head on up to one the the Christmas tree farms this year and start a tradition that the kids will enjoy for years to come! For info about the closest tree farm to you check out In Avery County go to

Monday, December 1, 2008

Morning Glory Cafe, Black Mountain

One of my favorite places for homemade comfort food is Morning Glory Cafe. Located at 6E Market Street, just off Rte 9 past the new super Ingles, it is a haven for locals on cold mornings.

They serve breakfast and lunch, featuring healthy fresh homemade food made by Chef Cookie Hadley. Some friends treated me to lunch there this past weekend and it was wonderful as usual.

I had the Salmon Cakes - wild Alaskan salmon, green onion, red bell peppers, lemon and capers topped with a spicy remoulade. The cakes were stuffed with salmon and not all breading like most. It was served with a fruit or side salad. Priced at $8.85.

Deb had the Build Your Own Omelet with three ingredients, served with fruit and grits or home fries. Priced at $7.95.

Larry chose lunch of Fish Po Boy - fried tilapia on grilled french bread with spicy remoulade and fresh lettuce, onion and tomato.

On warm days they offer dining outside on the patio. Expect to wait a bit as they are most always crowded but it is worth the wait.

Hours are Mon - Fri from 7am - 2pm and Sat & Sun from 8am - 2pm. Their menu is posted on their web site at 828.669.6212

Raccoon - Procyon lotor

Outside the front of our home, we have suet, thistle and another bird feeders hanging from a huge larch tree. My kitties and I enjoy watching the antics of all the birds outside feeding year round. Although I have not seen him, it seems like a raccoon is visiting and walking off with my suet feeder. I try to take it inside at night but when I forget, I usually have to hunt for it, finding it up the trail quite a ways from the house on the ground and empty. I know it is not a bear since the other feeders are carefully lifted off the hooks holding them on the tree branch. Bears will pull and break the hooks and feeders. Another sign it is a raccoon is the bird bath water is very muddy from the raccoon rinsing off his hands and food in the water.

The raccoon is one of the best known and most easily recognized mammals in our region. They are very adaptable and intelligent animals, capable of living in close proximity to humans. In North Carolina, raccoons are most common in the eastern coastal plain section because of the abundant wetland habitat.

Raccoons are medium sized mammals, with adults ranging in weight from about 8 to 20 pounds and a length of 28 to 33 inches. Male raccoons are generally larger than the females. The fur is relatively long with an overall coloration of grizzled gray to brownish black. The most distinctive features of the raccoon are the black-ringed tail and the blackish coloration on the front of the face which resembles a bandit's mask.

Raccoons are most common in and around wetland areas, where they search for small aquatic animals like crayfish and freshwater mussels in the shallow water. They find much of their food by feeling with their sensitive front paws, often while gazing off in another direction. They also have the habit of dunking their food items in water when available, leading some people to believe that raccoons "wash" their food before eating it. It is more likely though that this "washing" of food items by a raccoon is simply its way of feeling and inspecting the food with its tactile senses before swallowing. Besides aquatic life and other animal matter, raccoons also eat a variety of fruits, berries, and seeds. In suburban areas, raccoons often raid our garbage cans for food as well as backyard bird feeders and gardens. Raccoons are generally active throughout the year, becoming dormant in winter only in very cold regions of the country. They usually begin breeding in their first or second year during late winter. After a gestation period of about 63 to 65 days, raccoons give birth to a litter of 2 to 5 young. The den is usually located in a hollow tree cavity, burrow, or other secluded site. Baby raccoons are weaned at 16 weeks of age but usually remain with the mother until they are about 9 months old. The average lifespan in the wild of a raccoon is from 2 to 3 years but they have lived as long as 17 years in captivity:

Raccoons have long been hunted and trapped in much of North America. Early settlers hunted them for their meat and raccoon pelts were commonly used to make articles of clothing. 'Coonskin hats were often worn by the pioneers and even in this century, during the 1920's, raccoon skin coats were a major fad. Today, raccoons are much less likely to be pursued for their meat and hides, although they continue to be a popular game animal. Raccoon hunting is done at night when raccoons are most active. Specially trained dogs are often used to find and trail raccoons until they are "treed". Many modern day 'coon hunters simply like the thrill of the chase and the sounds of the baying hounds. Once treed, many of these raccoons are left to be pursued again another day. Regulated hunting of raccoons has much less impact on raccoon populations than other factors such as food shortages, parasites, and diseases. Many raccoons are also killed each year on our highways. Raccoons in our area often suffer from fatal outbreaks of canine distemper, especially in late winter, and are also one of the most likely wild animals to contract the deadly rabies virus. Any raccoon that appears to be disoriented and unafraid of people should be avoided.

Bobcat - Felis rufus

Once when I was pet sitting for a sweet dog of friends, I heard a deep growl from the dark as I left the house. Needless to say I ran for the car and locked myself inside! I am sure it was a bobcat. I had seen a few at night while driving through my neighborhood.

Bobcats occur frequently in the southern half of North America but are rarely found in the Midwestern states. They are common in the mountains of the Carolinas and the coastal plain as far north as the Great Dismal Swamp. Larger populations occur in the mountains and coastal plain than in the Piedmont region.

Bobcats are somewhat larger than domestic cats, ranging from 24 to almost 40 inches in length, including the tail. They weigh between 16 and 24 pounds, depending on their sex, with males typically being -heavier than females. Their mottled coloration varies from grayish to reddish brown with small darker spots and blotches. The tail is short and tipped with black on the upper surface. Long hairs on their faces resemble 'sideburns' and their ears are usually dark with a white patch near the tip.

Bobcats are solitary hunters that prey mostly on small mammals such as rabbits and rodents, although they will also eat birds and even large animals like the white-tail deer. Bobcats have binocular vision which enables them to focus on swiftly running prey. Their pupils expand to take in all available light, making them extremely effective night hunters. Sharp claws that assist in climbing are retractable, allowing the bobcat to approach their prey more quietly. They can stalk to within a few feet of their intended prey and then make a short dash or pounce. Bobcats have compact skulls (fewer teeth and shortened jaws) coupled with long canine teeth. This provides them with tremendous biting pressure that can kill their prey in one bite. Bobcats begin breeding at 1 year of age, usually in late winter or early spring. Two to four kittens are born after a gestation period of about 62 days. The young are furred but blind at birth. In about ten days their eyes will open and at four weeks they begin to explore the area around the den. They are weaned in about 7 to 8 weeks. Bobcats occupy a variety of habitats where there are dense thickets, including coastal swamps and upland forests. Although they are often undetected, bobcats can live close to humans as long as there is suitable habitat. They make their dens in hollow trees, small caves, and underneath rock ledges and outcroppings.

Bobcats were once found throughout the United States but today's range is more limited. A major mortality factor appears to be the available food supply, although parasites and diseases can also affect the population. It is legal to hunt and trap bobcats in North Carolina during set seasons. The price for bobcat pelts has recently risen and some wildlife biologists feel that increased trapping pressure could possibly threaten bobcat populations in some areas.


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