A Very Dark Night…

Two nights ago shortly after midnight we were in bed just about to put our books down and turn out the lights. Then we heard a huge boom outside our window and our entire house went dark. Sliding into shoes, grabbing jackets, and flashlights we dashed outside.

Thoughts flew through my head: If this was a horror movie we’ll be chopped into pieces as we run out the door. Don’t be ridiculous! Could it be vandalism? Nah, we live in a nice quiet neighborhood. Perhaps something went terribly wrong with the electrical work we had done last month? I’m gonna be so mad at Richard! No, he’s a good guy, he wouldn’t make a big mistake. Is our house on fire? I hope not! Did a vehicle run into a power pole?

It was easy to see that our neighbors lights were still on. As we rounded the corner of our house we were relieved to not see any flames. A quick check of our digital meter showed it was completely blank. Nothing looked amiss with our connection so we used our flashlights to follow the power line back to the closest power pole in our front yard. Up on the transformer we made out the shape of a head with big ears. Our hearts sank as we realized that an animal had caused our outage. Since it was nighttime and the transformer was a good 25 feet off the ground we presumed it was a Great Horned Owl. The bird must’ve flown into the wires, dying as electricity arced through its body, the resultant power surge tripping the junction.

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Since it was a work night for Lance he headed back to bed after helping me unplug everything just in case there was a surge when our power was restored. I sat up reading by candlelight, waiting for the repair man and was pleasantly surprised that our electric provider respond within the hour. When the electrician shone his bright spotlight up on the transformer I was shocked and horrified – it wasn’t an owl up there – it was a bobcat! A gorgeous, healthy bobcat. I was already incredibly sad thinking one of our neighborhood owls had died but I wasn’t prepared for that.

How in the world did a bobcat climb all the way up there? And why? It got worse when the electrician said that it has happened before. They’ve even had mountain lions and once a bear killed in that manner. How horrid, how terrible, how senseless! I think he was trying to reassure me when he said that the bobcat died instantly. I guess that is a slight relief, at least the animal didn’t suffer. I stood there in the cold, dark night crying as the electrician removed the carcass from the transformer and reconnected our power. He left the bobcat at the base of the pole citing company policy and informed me I’d have to report the incident to Arizona Game and Fish in the morning.

I dreaded waking up the next morning – I would have to tell Lance, I would have to call Game and Fish, and I would have to see the bobcat in the daylight. After Lance left for work I made the phone call. Game and Fish had no interest in the bobcat’s body and they gave me permission to bury it. I figured it was the least I could do. So I took a deep breath and drug myself outside to bury that poor animal. I had plenty of time to think as I dug through rocks and clay. This bobcat could’ve been the one that we’ve sighted several times on our property. This could’ve been the one that touched noses with our cat Rookie a couple years ago. With such huge paws and a distinct size advantage the bobcat could’ve easily killed our cat, instead he nonchalantly sauntered over to the nearest tree, lifted his leg and peed.

The worst part was picking it up. I knelt down by the bobcat – it looked like it was sleeping, there were no signs of trauma. It was an amazing animal. Half of me hoped it would wake up, startled by my touch. Sadly I slid my hands under its cold, soft fur and carried it to its grave. Our bobcat will always have a home here under the canopy of a large palo verde. The evening before had been a very dark night indeed.

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7 thoughts on “A Very Dark Night…

  1. Hector

    How sad, seems as though a simple guard would prevent such loss especially if it is as common as the lineman seemed to indicate. Sorry you had to deal with that.

  2. Erin Willett Post author

    I don’t know how common it is but he certainly had experience clearing animals. I asked the lineman if there was anything we could do and he looked at me like I was a nutter and said no.

    I’m imagining a very large cone shape, kind of like the squirrel-deterrents used to keep those pesky buggers off bird feeders. I know the utility won’t voluntarily install anything like that – they have a raptor protection program but they only install the protectors after a bird has been found dead. They cite the expense in their reasoning.

    We’re willing to pay for it but I’m not sure the electric company will allow us to install something. I will follow up with them.

  3. Karen

    What an awful thing! I know bobcats can climb but I had no idea they would go way up an electric pole. I am so sorry you had to deal with such a sad event.

  4. Erin Willett Post author

    Thanks, Karen. It was a very yucky night! I’ve never heard of such a thing either. Years ago in school I saw a Disney movie called The Living Desert. It was filmed down here in Tucson in 1953. I still vividly remember one scene where a bobcat climbed to the top of a saguaro (chased there by an angry group of javelina). Makes me wonder if our bobcat was chased up there. Though we didn’t hear a disturbance nor were there any tell-tale tracks or scuff marks.

  5. Erin Willett Post author

    Message from FB by Adria: Just read this (somehow I had missed it). So, so sad and horrible. So sorry you had to go through that. How can we find a way to coexist without the animals taking the majority of the cost?

  6. Erin Willett Post author

    It was awful, Adria. I had never even heard of such a thing before. It must not happen often enough for the general public to lobby the electric company to employ preventative measures. Which is what it would take… I’m not knocking our electric provider, I know it wouldn’t make economic sense for them to place a deterrent device on every single pole, unless there was significant public pressure. I will give them some credit: as of 2002 all new power poles they install have raptor protection (which prevents large birds from getting electrocuted). The downside is they will only place raptor protective devices on older poles as needed (which means a bird has to die and the death has to be reported), again because of the cost.

    There is always a cost for every decision we make which is why we try to make better decisions every day. Sigh.

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