Tuesday, December 28, 1999 — 8:54 am
Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge, Arkansas
I arrived at the refuge at 8:05, just after it opened. I drove along the river and stopped a few times when I saw something interesting. I usually continue along the river to the boat landing on the old channel, but this day I didn’t. Two Golden Eagles were seen at Holla Bend on the CBC, and I figured I’d most likely find them in the large fields back in from the river.
I drove over the levy and headed out into the fields. I hadn’t gone far when I saw an animal trotting complacently along the road toward me. It was probably 150 yards away when I first saw it. It was the size and color of a Coyote, and that’s what I thought it was at first. But something about the way it ran made me look closer. I even said out loud to myself, “What is that?”
I stopped the car and grabbed my binoculars. Just as I thought “Bobcat,” it saw my car and cut off into the field along the road and disappeared from view. I drove ahead, but soon saw it again. It was now running, but not in a full sprint. It was coming toward me parallel to the road. I stopped and watched from the car as it passed me in clear view about 40 yards away. When it reached the brushy area on the levy, it stopped and looked back over its shoulder, giving me a good look for about 20 seconds. It then ducked into the cover.
It was a large cat, larger than I expected. It was every bit as big as Coyotes I’ve seen. I’d guess it was about 35 inches long and 30 inches tall. Its long legs gave it a gangly look, especially when it trotted. Its fur was gray. It had black spots on its belly and upper legs. The tail was short, maybe seven inches long and usually held down against the body with the tip curled out and up in a hook. The tip was black with a flash of white, which probably came from the underside.
Although it obviously ran off the road and through the field because of my presence, it didn’t seem to be panicking. It simply ran toward the nearest cover and then stopped to view the situation before heading to cover. I never saw the Golden Eagles, but I was able to console myself with the Bobcat, an animal I never thought I’d see.