I witnessed an amazing scene today while I was driving down the Feather River Canyon in northern California. Here’s a video of the action:
The initial attack occurred right in front of my car as I was coming around a curve in the highway. I saw a burst of feathers and the twisting of the cat’s body as the two animals fell onto the road. I pulled over, got out of my car, and took a photo of the bobcat locked onto the turkey’s neck.
A car drove by, traveling in the opposite direction. The bobcat spooked and ran off. The turkey stood up, apparently uninjured. I knew that the bobcat wasn’t far away so I began filming the bird in case the cat reappeared. The attack that followed is shown in the video clip above.
I don’t know the final outcome of this encounter. After the bobcat released the turkey the bird ran up to me and, in a bizarre plot twist, refused to leave my side. Amazingly, I saw only one puncture wound on the turkey’s neck. Meanwhile the bobcat kept coming out of the bushes to assess the situation, ducking back out of sight each time a car drove by.
Eventually I tried to pick up the turkey to set it on a potential roost where it might be out of the cat’s reach. It didn’t protest when I touched it, picking off loose feathers from its head and back, but it seemed to feel threatened when I tried to pick it up. After the failed pick-up attempt the bird suddenly took off at full speed, traveling along the side of the highway.
I stayed at my car for several minutes to see if the bobcat would run after the turkey. Nothing happened, however, so eventually I drove away. By then the turkey was about 1/4 mile down the highway, with the cat nowhere in sight.
Did the bird survive? My best guess is no, but I could be wrong. Initially I was rooting for the bobcat because WOW! This is Nature in action. Predation is a fact of life and witnessing (and videotaping!) a predation event is perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But when the turkey sidled up to me and seemed to be asking for protection I found myself longing to help the poor bird survive. Nature, you’re always full of surprises.