Bobcat

Before I delve into the world of the bobcat, I wanted to say that with coronavirus and lock downs and self isolation, it is a strange time. If you would like me to look at an animal that has come into your life recently, please drop me and email and I will see what I can do. Sometimes we need to hear the teachings of our fellow creatures and right now feels especially like one of those times.

But back to the bobcat…

Vision is fluid and the eyes tend to lie.  This means that what some see as restrictive and abusive, others see as liberating and freeing.  It really does depend on whose eyes you are looking through”
Animal totem tarot

In the Animal Totem Tarot deck, the bobcat features on the devil card which also ties into the idea of perspective. Depending on how you see things, the devil can be shackling, or liberating and further, it can represent someone who is unshackled and yet is chained because they think they are.

They are obviously feline creatures, and they have – as you’d expect – a short bobbed tail.  This has a white end with a black tip and is held up in the dark so that kits can follow mum.  They also have tufts of hair on their ears that are used like whiskers, and ruffs of fur on the side of the face akin to sideburns! 

Bobcats are found in south eastern USA and whilst they are rural creatures, they are becoming more habituated to urban and suburban landscapes.  They tend to be found in areas with cover for them to slip through, such as forests and brushland, and will sleep in hidden dens, often made in hollow trees, thickets and rocky crevices.

Some people see them as invading the urban landscape, but in reality, we invaded their homeland – there are multiple versions of truth, again we still the theme of perspective.  Sticking with this, bobcats are nocturnal which brings in ideas about night and the moon and they in turn give us mystery and things not being very clear.  The darkness can trick you, making you think you see things that aren’t there and hiding the things that are.  The moon in tarot is all about the subconscious, illusions and dreams.  There is distortion and magic and mystery. 

However, as bobcats have excellent hearing and vision, we could read this as a creature who can help us see into and navigate through the confusion of the darkness and the night.  Perhaps the bobcat is here to be a guide for you.

Bobcats are solitary cats, that only really interact for mating.  They want to be left to do their own thing and to enjoy their own company and are here to remind you that sometimes, you need this time and space too.  When it comes to reproducing, males and females come together for a brief time, just long enough for courtship and copulation.  The female will then be left alone to raise the young.  It takes almost a year to get them to the point where they can go off on their own, and a key part of being able to leave the nest is about being able to hunt successfully. 

Bobcats are well camouflaged and this helps them to slip through the environment unseen, further they are quiet, near silent as they stealthily hunt out prey.  One way they reduce noise is by putting their back feet in the footprints of the front paws, apparently all cats do this, cat owners let me know!  They are known to perch in rocky alcoves waiting for the right moment to pounce and have been described as spring loaded predators.  This puts me in mind of seizing the opportunity.  Related to this, they are what are called opportunists when it comes to diet.  But as well as jumping on opportunities, they are patient, waiting for the right opportunity, not just grabbing at whatever comes to hand.  Be selective, be patient and then go for it.

When I was researching the bobcat, the idea of secrets came up repeatedly with the view that they are inscrutable and cannot be coerced into revealing their secrets.  They are sometimes considered to be keepers of occult knowledge and guardians of secrets.  Perhaps because of the solitary lifestyle, people feel that they can share this information with the bobcat and it will not be shared with anyone else. 

Their night vision means they are said to be able to see into the future, to have profound insight and are able to look within people to their souls.  This may be a time when you can see what others are trying to keep hidden from you.  Trust your gut right now if secrets are involved.  Also remember that with the night comes our subconscious and sometimes we are hiding secrets from ourselves.  If that might be the case right now, it might be time to try and uncover them, you are allowed to know these secrets and sometimes, not always, it can be helpful to tap into our inner world.

Naturally, a lot of folklore around the bobcat comes from Native Americans.

“The Lakota held cats in fear and awe.  They believed that to kill or mutilate any kind of cat – mountain lion, bobcat or even the plain old domestic tabby – carried a curse.  The culprit would have terrible things happen to him.  Therefore, they avoided cats.”
– Jessica Dawn Palmer

In some mythology, the bobcat is twinned with the coyote to represent duality.  Another tale explains how the bobcat got its spots.  After getting trapped in a tree rabbit persuades bobcat to build a fire but the embers end up scattered on the bobcat’s fur and the spots it wears today are the singe marks.  Another story explains the bobbed tail.

Their excellent hunting skills are admired by some groups but for others, the bobcat plays a negative role, being cast as greedy, selfish and disregarding social rules.

Ultimately, it feels as though the bobcat is here to help us see into the darkness and the night, and to remind us that there are many perspectives and truths and to look at things from all angles.

Links:

Animal Diversity Web

IUCN Red List

National Geographic

Aunty Flo

Animal Wisdom by Jessica Dawn Palmer

Animals in war

“It would not be an overstatement to say that the outcomes of many of histories wars might have been very different if it were not for the role that animals such as horses and dogs played in them”
– Margo De Mello, Animals and Society

And it’s not just horses and dogs:

“Armies past and present have made use of pigs and other animals such as dogs, horses and even rats to help them win battles and conquer lands.”
– Pia Spry-Marques

Legend has it that Alexander the Great used squealing pigs to panic the war elephants of his enemies.  This was a tactic also used by Romans to repel the Greeks.  On another occasion, a squealing pig was hung from the walls of a besieged town to frighten the elephants of the enemy camped outside.  In the 1st century AD, pigs doused in pitch were set alight and driven towards the enemy’s war elephants.  War elephants were clearly intimidating but they are prone to panicking – hence the use of squealing pigs to scare them.  They would stampede in their attempts to escape and so each rider had a spike and a hammer to kill the elephant in the case that it charged towards their own lines.

Of course, dogs were also used. Ancient Greeks and Romans used them to guard their communities and military outposts.  They have also been used as pack animals, messengers, to attack, as companionship for soldiers and to pull injured soldiers to safety.  When Europeans settled in North American, dogs were even trained to attack, and even kill, the natives.

In 16th century manuscripts, we find ‘rocket cats’ being used to invade castles; cats living in the castle would be captured, bomb attached and then there was the assumption the cat would return to the castle.  I can only assume the people suggesting this plan hadn’t spent much time with a cat… I cannot image them being cooperative…

Other “animal weapons” included foxes with fire tied to their tails, boars with gun powder on their back and ‘fire birds’ – birds who had a bag of embers attached to them.  The idea being that they would then roost on enemy buildings and cause a fire.

We have a lot more information about animals used in World War One and Two, and species utilised included pigeons, horses, dogs and cats.  World War Two was the last conflict to use great numbers of horses and millions of them were killed along with tens of thousands of dogs and other animals including bats…

There was a US plan to attach timed bombs to the bats and release them en masse.  The idea being that they’d settle on buildings and then explode.  Whilst it never actually happened, it was tested and in the tests the bats roosted on a fuel tank… there were no fire extinguishers on the site.  $24 million in today’s money was spent on testing this…

More successfully, pigeons were used to convey messages and were trained to guide missiles.  It was better than existing technology but I’m not sure if pigeon missiles were ever actually implemented.  One messenger pigeon called Gustav conveyed the news of the D Day landing and by the time World War Two ended, 32 pigeons had received medals.

The Dickin medal was created in world war two to recognise animals in war.  It was established by Marie Dickin who also founded PDSA and the medal helped to publicise the charity as well as acknowledge the role of animals. Additionally, it provided a good news story during the war.

Since 1943, the medal was been awarded 71 times; 34 dogs, 32 pigeons, 4 horses and one cat called Simon who “Served on HMS Amethyst during the Yangtse Incident, disposing of many rats though wounded by shell blast. Throughout the incident his behaviour was of the highest order, although the blast was capable of making a hole over a foot in diameter in a steel plate.”

Alongside this good news story, the UK’s MoD lab Porton Down (opened in 1916) was investigating and experimenting on animals:

“A large number involve exploding live pigs to assess whether humans would be able to survive this sort of extreme battlefield injury and, if they did, to figure out what would be the best blood-clotting solutions for this kind of trauma.  As part of the centre’s experimental programme, pigs are also shot repeatedly and later operated on by arm doctors, or are made to inhale mustard gas to assess how this toxic gas affects human concentration levels and orientation.”
– Pia Spry-Marques

Animal experimentation wasn’t confined to the UK.  In 1946, at Bikini Atoll, 147 pigs, 3030 rats, 109 mice, 57 guinea pigs and 176 were placed in ships near to where the first atomic bomb was dropped to see how and to what extent the radiation would affect them.  Eleven years later, in the US’ Operation Plumbbob, experiments assessed the impact of radiation on pigs.

Other animals used in the world wars included the glow worm which was trapped in a jar and then used to help soldiers read maps and letters in the dark trenches.  The humble slug was used by the US army in their trenches as an early warning system to alert soldiers to the presence of mustard gas.  Slugs are more sensitive to it than humans and thus would alert the soldiers and indicate it was necessary to put on a gas mask.

In the Vietnam War, Agent Orange was used to destroy plant life (allegedly aimed at food supplies) but had the result of destroying major habitats.  The homes of tigers, elephants, gibbons, leopards and other animals were destroyed. Additionally, unexploded landmines would kill at least 40,000 animals after the war.

During the cold war, a fence 815 km long was erected between Germany and the Czech republic and although the border is now open, red deer who live in the area still don’t cross the line.  Fences such as this one have known impacts on nature.  They divide populations, split males from females, interrupt migration routes and block access to food and water sources.

Since 1960, the US Navy has used dolphins and sea lions to protect ports and equipment from attack, to retrieve objects, to spy and to locate sea mines.  They are used because they can dive deep without getting the bends, they are fast, reliable, adaptable and most importantly trainable.

Of course it’s not just marine animals that have been used to detect mines, many land animals have been used as well.  For example, the Nazis used pigs, cows and camels to check for minefields as they moved across Egypt and we have bomb sniffing dogs and rats.  In particular, the Giant African Pouched Rat has been trained by US military to detect buried landmines – they can sniff them out and are too light to set them off.

During the Iran-Iraq war, numbers of wild goats, wolves, otters, pelicans, striped hyenas and other animals were dramatically reduced, sometimes even wiped out.  In the Afghan war more than half the total livestock population was lost and in the Gulf war, more than 80% of the livestock in Kuwait died.  A deliberate oil leak by Iraqi troops also killed many aquatic animals and birds.

Looking very briefly at the impact of war on animals, we can see that zoo animals are inevitably affected during war.  Sometimes that has meant food shortages other times it has resulted in individuals being killed as a preventative attempt so that dangerous animals weren’t running around if they got out during bombing.

During Mozambique’s civil war – 1977 to 1992 – elephants were butchered for ivory and meat and populations dropped significantly.  Thankfully they are now bouncing back.  Lions, buffalo, hippos, wildebeest are now more numerous than in 1994.  During the war, Gorongosa National Park was a refuge for rebel forces and when government troops came to challenge them, there was carnage and fighting which inevitably had consequences for the wildlife in the area.

And in a very different vein, dogs are well known for their use in supporting soldiers with PTSD, so I leave you with this video, in order to end on a brighter note…

Links