EVERETT — Humans aren’t the only ones lured to follow the food and lodging signs along interstate exits.
Seems a cool cat named Bob has found a few creature comforts to his liking near the 128th Street SE exit.
Bob … short for bobcat.
An image of Bob strolling the boardwalk at 4:27 a.m. Nov. 5 was snapped by the wildlife camera at Adopt A Stream Foundation’s Northwest Stream Center. The 32-acre nature preserve, about a half-mile from I-5, is in McCollum Park.
The bobcat became a Facebook sensation after Snohomish County Parks and Recreation posted a pic of the adult male and named him Bob.
“Bob is a good reason to leave the park at dusk and keep your pet on a leash,” the post read.
Cameras are fastened on trees at three sites along the preserve’s half-mile boardwalk to catch the goings-on of the animals that call it home. The night shots are black and white. The daytime snaps are in crisp color.
To the untrained eye, Bob’s blurry bod might look like a white tiger in the dark woods.
“It’s not a fancy camera that Art Wolfe would use,” said Stream Center Director Tom Murdoch, referring to the well-known nature photographer.
Murdoch said it is the first bobcat caught on camera in the area that comprises the riparian zone next to North Creek between the center and Mill Creek Town Center.
“A nature preserve right in the middle of the ‘burbs,” he said.
Bob is a welcome addition to the neighborhood.
“It’s a good sign,” Murdoch said. “We provide him with food, shelter and space.”
If all goes well, Bob might live 12 years in the wild, he said.
The motion-activated cameras have captured digital images of many unsuspecting animals. Deer, fox, owls, otters. Great blue herons eating trout. A coyote standing on the rail in the salmon viewing spot.
Black bears made several appearances during the summer.
Bobcats are most active at night and rarely seen during the day.
“They’re looking at you, but you are not going to see them,” Murdoch said. “I’ve never seen one in the wild anywhere and I’ve been looking.”
Bob likely isn’t the only cat of his kind hunkering down.
“Usually if there’s one, there’s probably more than one around,” he said.
Before being caught on camera, bobcat-claw marks had been seen on trees.
Center docent Gary Noble previously saw what he thought was a bobcat in the woods at dusk.
“All I got to see is his back. He had this really odd short tail,” Noble said. “It looked like the size of a dog, but it didn’t walk like a dog. It walked like a cat.”
He and his wife, Kay, maintain the wildlife cameras and transfer images onto a computer.
“Even the coyotes are exciting to see,” she said.
Murdoch said next year the center plans to launch “Creatures of the Night” tours of the forest and wetland with night vision goggles to be purchased with grant money.
How do they know it’s a Bob not a Bobbi cat?
According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, bobcat males weigh between 20 and 30 pounds and average 3 feet in length. Females are smaller.
Bob is a big dude, about 40 inches from nose to end of tail, Murdoch estimated, based on the width of the boardwalk slats.
He said he suspects Bob is the alpha male.
“There may be a couple of females within his range, but they are only interested in each other for brief courting and mating periods,” he said.
The menu for bobcats include mice, voles, rabbits, gophers, beaver and birds.
And Bambi. “A bobcat the size of Bob can certainly take down deer fawn,” Murdoch said.
Not to worry, the bobcats don’t eat people.
Nor do they crave attention.
“They don’t want to be bothered by us,” he said.
Ditto for the bears last seen in August.
“They started avoiding the camera,” Murdoch said. “We saw muddy bear paw prints in September and October. None in November. We figure they’ve found a place to start snoozing.”