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Expert: 'Isn't she beautiful'

May 21, 2010

Janice Hess, a resident of Newport Beach's Dover Shores neighborhood, snapped this picture Tuesday afternoon of a bobcat roaming near her house on Holiday Road. The bobcat was presumed to be the one known as Babe, who has been seen in the neighborhood in recent days and was believed to be pregnant.

On Thursday, a local expert who has been tracking bobcats in the area, confirmed the identity of the wild cat pictured as "Babe" the bobcat.

"This is definitely Babe," Dick Newell, a biologist and authority on bobcats who's been following their movements in the Upper Newport Bay area for more than a decade, told the Daily Pilot in an e-mail. Newell has a website ( www.octrackers.com/bobcat1. htm) where people can report suspected bobcat sightings and have their questions or concerns about the species answered.

"(Isn't she beautiful). You will notice the yellowish tag in her left ear... ," he wrote. "I would rather not opine as to whether she has given birth as I am afraid folks will start to look for the kittens, and that would not be in their best interest for a few more weeks."

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Hess took several photos of Babe after she and her 6- and 7-year-old children spotted the wild cat perched on their fence, as they were leaving the house about 4:30 p.m. The animal was about as big as a Golden Retriever puppy, Hess said.

She used a Nikon D40X SLR camera with a zoom lens to photograph the bobcat as it strolled down her driveway and crossed the street to a neighbor's yard.

On Wednesday, a dog was reported to have chased Babe up a tree behind a house one door down from Hess' residence.

"I wasn't afraid of her because I had read a report saying that she wouldn't attack you," Hess said.

But she did fret a bit for the safety of the family's cat and Chihuahua.

— Imran Vittachi and Sarah Peters

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