Duluth photographer's video of 3 bobcats on frozen St. Louis River goes viral

Mike Mayou was flying his drone over the frozen St. Louis River when he came across bobcats having some fun on the ice.

One bobcat sits on the ice of the St. Louis River in Wisconsin on Wednesday, Dec. 16., while two others sit on a dead tree hanging over the shore. (Photo by Mike Mayou of Duluth)
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Duluth photographer Mike Mayou was flying his drone along the icy St. Louis River in Wisconsin around dusk Wednesday when he discovered three bobcats playing on the ice.

Mayou said he initially had hoped to shoot the sunset over the river, but heavy clouds thwarted those plans. He was just packing up to leave when he saw some movement in the distance.

"I could see something from afar, but I couldn't really tell what it was. So, I thought, 'I'm just going to fly my drone over to see what it is.' It could have been a fox or a random housecat," he said. As the drone approached, however, three bobcats came into view.

"It was pretty astonishing," Mayou said.

"The three cats were very comfortable with being up close and personal with the camera, thus this footage," Mayou wrote on his YouTube page.


As of Friday, the video had nearly 250,000 views on Facebook, according to Mayou, who said: "I totally didn't expect it to blow up the way that it has. I was blown away."

"Looking back there are maybe some things I should have done differently," he said, explaining that the sighting was a spur-of-the-moment encounter, and he doesn't typically seek out wildlife.

"Getting really close to nature with a drone raises some ethical concerns. You don't want to frighten them and make their heart rates go up. So, looking back, I probably wouldn't have gotten quite as close as I did," he said.

But the cats seemed to behave quite calmly, and one of the bobcats in particular seemed curious, actually approaching quite close to the small drone, which Mayou said fits in the palm of his hand.

"I stayed there for maybe five minutes. It wasn't much longer than that, and then I flew out, because I didn't want to disturb them any more. But it was really magical," he said.

Mayou has been asked by many folks exactly where he shot the video, but he has chosen not to disclose the location, except to acknowledge it was on the St. Louis River, so as to avoid others from attempting to replicate his video, thereby risking any further disturbance of the bobcats.


Mayou has been heavy into photography for about the past five years and began to explore drone photography a little over a year ago.

Three curious bobcats study a drone flown by Duluth photographer Mike Mayou on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Mayou was filming some video of the frozen St. Louis River when he spotted the bobcats playing on the ice. (Photo courtesy Mike Mayou)

Samantha Erkkila is the digital content producer for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach her at
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