So a few years back there was a story making the rounds about some scientists who were using Calvin Klein’s Obsession for Men cologne to lure jaguars into camera traps. Media outlets reported that it was probably the civetone in the fragrance that appealed to the cats – that’s a compound that’s collected from the musk glands of the African civet (if it’s not produced synthetically).
We wondered if the fragrance might also be attractive to bobcats. The first step in the experiment was to buy some Obsession. I went to a big box store in Barre, Vermont, found the perfume section and the smallest bottle they sold, looked at the price on the bottom of the box, put the perfume back down, and walked out of the store. I found some online for less money, but the math still worked out to $1,500 a gallon. We’re clearly in the wrong business.
Anyway, next we had to find some good bobcat habitat. I lit out for a place I knew cats haunted on a mountain near home – the kind of place Sue Morse would call “rocky refugia.” I set up the cameras and sprayed the ground and the ledge in several points; also, a low-hanging spruce branch. Two days later, a bobcat sauntered in front of the camera at 4:07 a.m. He (I can’t tell for sure, but the size and shape of the head makes me think it’s male) seemed to be smelling the places I sprayed, but it also seemed like mere acknowledgment, not so much deep curiosity. He lingered at the site almost exactly one minute, which doesn’t seem like he lingered much at all. Later that day, at 3:30 in the afternoon, the same cat walked by the second camera and didn’t acknowledge any place that I sprayed. I got one shot. It was cool to learn, though, from the gap between pictures, that he presumably hung out in roughly the same area for at least 11 hours, probably curled up to take in the abnormally warm January sun. And note the distinctive dotted lines that run along the length of his back.
One is a very small sample size, but from it I’ve decided that bobcats just aren’t into this particular overpriced fragrance. Squirrels, on the other hand, love it. The cameras were out for six days, and every day gray squirrels were coming in and devouring the smell, in some cases scent-marking on top of it in risqué poses that would have made former Obsession model Kate Moss proud. What you see here is just a fraction of the total shots.
In this business wild cats are considered charismatic fauna – they’re the kind of animals people swoon over, so when you find a fragrance that attracts one, it becomes a worldwide news story. Photographic proof that eastern gray squirrels are enamored doesn’t quite carry the same cachet, but if anyone from Reuters, or The New York Times, or the BBC is reading this and suspecting their readers might have a burning obsession with squirrels, we’re happy to share the content and the pictures.