Had they been on a first-name basis, things might have played out differently for Trout Buesser and Bobcat.
Their surprise meeting on an early-August morning outside Buesser's Pleasant Valley home was nonetheless a memorable one - for good reasons - for the 16-year-old photographer and outdoorsman, who now can say his closest encounter with wildlife occurred in his front yard.
This is Colorado Springs. It happens.
"It was kind of cool how relaxed it was, just letting us stand there and take pictures of it," said Buesser, who ducked inside to grab his camera after he and his brother spotted the approximately-30-pound wildcat outside the family's house on Chambers Drive, south of Garden of the Gods. "It was just kind of wandering around. I was surprised to see it in the neighborhood - at 11 o'clock in the morning - and surprised at how bold it was."
The brothers watched as the animal pursued a squirrel up a tree and then hung around for a photo op, in a vee of branches, as Buesser snapped away.
"We were standing right at the base of the tree for maybe 10 or 15 minutes. It was just watching us," said Buesser, who goes by the nickname his avid-fisherman father bestowed on him at birth, rather than his given name, Cole. "I've lived here since I was 2, and I've seen deer and bears. It seems like bobcats are a relatively new thing."
Buesser isn't the only Pleasant Valley resident to notice, and document on social media, what appears to be an uptick in bobcat encounters on their properties. Nor is he the only resident wondering if an apparent rise in sightings has some underlying cause, environmental or viral. In short: Should they be concerned?
Colorado Parks and Wildlife says "not really."
"We've got bobcats in Colorado Springs every single year, so it's really nothing unusual," said the department's area wildlife manager, Frank McGee. "You could have had a bobcat in your neighborhood that's been there for years, and people just weren't aware of it before."
Unlike with certain other commonly spied wildlife, Colorado Springs' municipal bobcats aren't known to be vectors for disease.
"It's not like with raccoons and skunks. We've found diseases in both of those - not in this area, but in different parts of the county (including) the Black Forest and Monument areas," McGee said. "They (bobcats) don't pose that kind of threat to people."
Because bobcats hunt primarily at night, between dusk and dawn, it is unusual to see one in the open during peak daylight hours, especially when people are around. The behavior, however, isn't necessarily out of character for an opportunistic Colorado predator whose native turf blurs with human stomping grounds.
"They're in town looking for food, and if you're seeing them, it's because they've done it enough times to have grown somewhat comfortable around people," McGee said. "There's an abundance of food here: squirrels and rabbits and, unfortunately, if people aren't paying attention to their pets, that food could be cats and small dogs."
Bobcats are about half the size of their lynx cousins and mostly eat birds and small mammals. They're plenty big enough to take down the average domestic cat, though, and will try to make a meal of pretty much any modestly sized creature that appears to lack a similar agenda.
"If you keep animals in an outdoor kennel or coop, make sure it's secure and has a roof. When you're out walking pets, make sure they're on a leash," McGee said. "As long as people are not leaving animals outdoors and unattended, it shouldn't be an issue."
Bobcat visits are, by and large, benign, but McGee still cautions residents against doing anything to encourage the behavior, such as leaving out food. If you see a bobcat exhibiting signs of neurological disease, with an odd gait, demeanor or foaming at the mouth, don't hesitate to contact wildlife control.
"There will be other clues that something's wrong," McGee said. "If you see one out in the day, acting strange and not running away when people yell, that's when you call us."
Contact Stephanie Earls: 636-0364