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“…These are the best pictures of a ring-tailed cat which have come to my notice…”

Among the hundreds of typed and handwritten letters, telegrams, and invitation regrets and acceptances in the Bancroft Library archives of Stephen Mather’s correspondence, is one sheet of seven photographs of a ring-tailed cat taken at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.

 

The photographs, with an accompanying letter, were sent to Stephen Mather by Frank Kittredge (1883-1954) the Chief Engineer of the National Park Service, from his Field Headquarters in San Francisco.   In the letter, he relates the story of the cat’s capture…

 

“…Mr. Herschler…trapped the animal in one of the rooms of the hotel and after considerable effort and maneuvering was able to lasso the cat with a piece of cord.  He kept the animal over night (sic) in a small barrel, and the next morning tamed it sufficiently to obtain good pictures…With considerable petting the animal became so tame that it would eat out of his hand…”

 

Kittredge goes on to add that…”These are the best pictures of a ring-tailed cat which have come to my notice, and I am sure that you will be interested in seeing them…”

 

Over the past century, our understanding of acceptable and respectful interaction with

wildlife has matured.  But with these first encounters within the National Parks, it is

easy to see how enthusiasm could outpace better judgment…an enthralling enthusiasm from which even Stephen Mather, the Director of the National Park Service was not immune!







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