In Olympic National Park, the catch of the day is a salmon the size of a bobcat—caught by a bobcat.
Earlier this week, Ranger Lee Snook took a morning stroll down to Taft Creek, a tributary of the Hoh River, to look for salmon that were spawning. There are five different types of salmon that call the rivers in Washington’s Olympic National Park home, and spawning season commences each fall.
“I had gone down sort of as a fluke with one of my staff,” Snook says.
But when Snook arrived at the river, she wasn’t alone.
“I was looking for fish, just like the bobcat,” Snook says. (See a bobcat drag a shark out of the surf.)
A female bobcat was out fishing, which is not your everyday sighting in the park, since the cats are usually elusive. But the bobcat was determined to get in on the spawning action, Snook says. The ranger says she took care to stay on the opposite side of the creek from the bobcat, and she did some of the filming from a nearby bridge.
“I kept thinking, ‘hold still!’ It was cold and my fingers were freezing...and the bobcat just was so focused and zen-like in its concentration on the fish and ignoring me,” Snook says. “I just sorta became part of the natural scene.”
Making sightings even more rare, bobcats are largely nocturnal animals that are most active at night. Dawn or dusk is therefore the best time for sightings.
“Bobcats are pretty elusive. They like to stay hidden,” Snook says. “She was pretty intent on getting some food.”
The cat managed to catch a salmon the size of its body, skillfully doing so without getting its coat wet. From the footage, park rangers guess the bobcat is adult and female.
These wild cats take advantage of Olympic National Park’s abundance of fish, Snook says, particularly during the spawning season when salmon are exhausted from a long journey. In addition to fish, bobcats also prey on rabbits, mice, squirrels, and birds. (Learn about the massive dam removal that benefitted the park.)
In the eight different parks that Snook has worked at, this is one of the more exciting moments she’s witnessed and a reminder of just how much America’s national parks have to offer.
“It’s a great place to explore,” Snook says. “Take some time, slow down, and you never know what you are going to find.”