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Apodaca: Famed bobcat's offspring possibly pops up

May 17, 2011|By Patrice Apodaca

Nearly five years ago, there was a flurry of bobcat sightings in my neighborhood near Newport Beach's Back Bay. In fact, it was in the community where I live that Newport-Mesa's most famous cat, Babe, was first tagged by wildlife experts.

Every so often, I'd spot her ambling around the streets near my home, with a few kittens tagging behind. Sometimes I'd be in my car; on other occasions, I was walking my dog and would keep my distance, mainly because of uneasiness over how my pooch would react if we got too close.

After a while Babe moved on and, until recently, it had been years since I'd had a bobcat sighting. Then, less than two weeks ago, I walked out of my house and spotted a bobcat crossing the street about 50 yards away.

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Excited, I ran back in the house and called to my teenage son, who got there in time to see the bobcat for himself. It crouched by a bush in a neighbor's yard, and then slipped out of sight.

I could tell it wasn't Babe, but who was this mysterious cat?

I decided to call Dick Newell, resident expert on local wildlife, to share my story and get his feedback.

Newell, a biologist, is the driving force behind Orange County Trackers, a volunteer group of wildlife authorities and enthusiasts. He has been painstakingly gathering information on animal life in the area for years, and his work has resulted in a greater understanding of how bobcats live in our midst.

Like a real-life Ace Ventura, Newell is part scientist, part bobcat whisperer and part detective. He hunts down every available clue, follows tracks, looks for patterns, interviews witnesses and pursues leads. He receives continual reports of bobcat sightings by local residents, and records the animals' movements with cameras he has set up all over the area.

Newell said that Babe has given birth to one litter a year since she was first collared near my home in December 2006, but he doesn't yet know if she's had babies this year.

After leaving my neighborhood, she produced another litter in Newport's Big Canyon, where she took up residence in the yard of a mansion overlooking the 18th hole of the golf course. She spent most of 2010 on the west side of the bay, in areas around the Environmental Nature Center and Mariners Drive, and recently has been in Newport Coast.

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