On May 3 the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay will hold its third annual Give Day contest where nonprofits compete to see who can have the most donors and donations that day. There are also prizes for the most donations in a particular hour of the day.
Thanks to so many of our supporters who participated, last year Big Cat Rescue won $30,000, more than any other nonprofit! Of that $30,000, $10,000 was a prize for the most donations to an animal nonprofit sponsored by Caspers Company pictured here presenting their check.
Helping us win this prize money to support the cats is a great way to leverage your donation dollar.
On May 3 donations are accepted online by credit card for the contest. The minimum donation is $25.
If you prefer to donate by check, the check is still made out to Big Cat Rescue but must be dated May 3 and have “Give Day” in the memo section. We need to submit it the day before Give Day, i.e. on Monday, May 2, so need to have it in hand, or at least a scanned copy of it, by that day. If you mail checks, please send them to:
Big Cat Rescue
12802 Easy Street
Tampa, FL 33625-3702
If you are contemplating a donation this year, Give Day is a great time to do it.
Who took a car to the face and lived to tell about it!
Update April 28, 2016
On Sunday Thor will be returned to his rightful place in the wild. Be sure that you are a fan of ours on Facebook.com/BigCatRescue and that you have your settings to include us first in the posts you see, so that you don’t miss the LIVE broadcast of his release. Meanwhile, you can read Thor’s miraculous story here: http://BigCatRescue.org/Thor and you can help fund bobcat rescue, rehab and release by purchasing Thor themed tees, totes, mugs, pillows, hoodies, phone cases and more here:
This morning, at 1:15 AM Jamie and Carole responded to a call in Brandon about a bobcat being hit by a car. Dr Justin Boorstein came in and they did Xrays to see what could be done.
Jamie recalls the event:
I got a call at 1:15 AM and it’s a man saying that his wife has found an injured bobcat in the middle of the highway in Brandon. Most people have no idea what a bobcat looks like, so I ask him to have his wife text me a photo. Dang! It’s a bobcat! Now I’m awake.
I call my mom to ask if she has a net and carrier at her house next door, so that I can save time getting to the scene, but she doesn’t. She gets out of bed and says she’ll go with me. As I hop into her truck she says, “Do you have a coat?” It’s in the 50’s, which is freezing to us Floridians, and I say, “I’m in my pajamas! No, I didn’t bring a coat!” Turns out she’s barely dressed and forgot hers too. Thankfully there are blankets in the truck.
The good news about early morning bobcat calls is that there is no one on the streets so we get to the sanctuary (4 miles away) in record time and exchange her pickup truck for the Tundra with a topper that we won in a Facebook contest a few years ago. (Thank you everyone who voted for us!) We had just released Rain and Dancer the 9 month old rehab bobcats the day before, so there are still nets and gloves in the back. We grab a big carrier out of the Emergency Response Center and are on our way.
Meanwhile the Good Samaritan who had called in the accident is frantic because the police have shown up on the scene and told her she can’t stay in the middle of the highway. She puts the officer in charge, in touch with me by phone and he’s saying he doesn’t think the bobcat is going to make it and maybe should be put out of his misery. I tell him that a bobcat in shock can look quite dead, but can regain consciousness very quickly and that they have an amazing ability to heal. I don’t want him to shoot the cat in the head, so I tell him that my husband is a veterinarian and standing by to humanely euthanize him, if that is what has to be done. He asks how long before we will be there, and by now we are about 20 minutes away.
More calls and texts back and forth and the woman who originally called us seems sure the police sent her away so they could dispose of the cat. We are driving as fast as we can, but it’s a long way from Citrus Park to the Brandon mall and we aren’t allowed to use flashing lights and sirens in order to save wildlife. Maybe we need a law that would allow rehabbers the same use as ambulance drivers.
The policeman contact me again and he sounds like he’s ready to call it quits because the bobcat looks so bad. He says that he doesn’t think the cat is going to make it, and that he’s bleeding from the nose and his eyes look bad, and even thinks he can be picked up by hand. By now we are 5 minutes out and ask him to wait. He agrees.
Carole recalls what happened next:
As WAZE is telling us that we are arriving at the location, I see the flashing lights of a patrol car and start to pull up behind it, but then notice there are patrol cars, lights flashing, at every corner of the huge intersection. My first concern is which one should I pull up next to, in order to have our tools closest to the cat, but then my heart leaps with joy to realize that the agency has cordoned off the entire road to insure that no one runs over the bobcat who is crouched in the middle of the road. I’ve never seen the police be so concerned about an injured animal before and it makes me grateful beyond belief.
In the center of all the chaos, I can see him and he looks HUGE. He’s in pain, so he’s all puffed up, but the lights from angle, highlight a halo in his fur tips that make him seem enormous. I wonder to myself if I brought a big enough carrier. Jamie and the officer she had been speaking with grab the nets and I grab the carrier out of the back of the Tundra and head toward the bobcat. As we approach Jamie asks how close the officer has been to the cat so she can assess his fight or flight distance. The officer says he’s been right up on him, but that the cat seems to be recovering. He suggests that perhaps, “His bell has been un-rung” meaning that he thinks the bobcat might be coming to his senses, and may be more likely to bolt.
Artfully Jamie breaks away from the cat’s view of me with a carrier and the police man with a net coming at his face, and sneaks around behind the bobcat. Sure enough, when we are about 10 feet out the bobcat decides that he isn’t going to be taken alive and he uses the last of what he has in him to leap to our left. Jamie comes in like a Ninja with one downward sweep of the net over him as he leaps!
It is a righteous netting (as we call it around Big Cat Rescue) because not only is the net over the cat, but the forward movement of his leap against the netting has landed him over the outside ring of the net’s neck. It is that configuration that allows us to lift a bobcat securely, because they can just hop right out of a net if it doesn’t fold over the edge. My heart swelled with pride that Jamie had shown such proficiency under such pressure. The officer showed some pretty amazing skill as he leapt right into the fray and put his net down over the top of Jamie’s. That little bit of extra security can make the difference between keeping a bobcat in a net and having them break free.
I put the carrier in front of Jamie’s net and ask the officer to trade spots with me. Jamie and I have moved countless cats from nets into carriers over the years and it isn’t easy. One wrong move and the cat is free. In cases like this, where the cats legs were not injured, he could definitely outrun us and get lost in the underbrush before we would be able to catch up. His facial injuries would then cause him to die a long and painful death. We couldn’t risk it.
The officer (rather expertly, I might add) put one foot behind the carrier to brace it. Sometimes an animal goes in so fast that they are able to push the carrier away from the nets and then can turn on a dime to escape through the crack. Jamie lined her net up to the open door and I used mine to push his tail end through the opening. The officer or Jamie, slammed the door shut, while retrieving the netting, but it happened so fast, I’m not sure whose hands were where, but the bobcat was safely secured.
We shouted our thanks out to the officers who were guarding the intersection and gave the officer in charge our brochure to share in case they get more bobcat injury calls. Jamie called her husband, Dr. Justin Boorstein and told him we were successful and on our way to the Windsong Memorial Hospital. He met us there around 2:45 am.
Emergency Diagnostics at the Windsong Memorial Hospital
X-rays showed that all of the damage is to his face. His jaw is fractured both top and bottom and will require very delicate surgery and lots of cage rest. His eye socket is crushed around his left eye and the impact and broken bones are putting pressure on his brain and his eye, which is unresponsive. One canine was broken off, but the other three are in good shape. His breathing sounds horrible but we think it is because of the damage to the nasal cavity and the swelling. It looked like there could be some tearing to the trachea, but no way to tell with just X-ray. We really need a sonogram machine.
Thor is in critical shape, but we don’t have all of the extensive bone plates, screws and drill necessary to fix his shattered jaw, so it will be later today before he can be sedated again at another hospital that is better equipped for car strike type injuries.
Since it is now 4:20 am, the vet wants to wait until tomorrow afternoon to sedate him again, as doing so too soon could kill him.
We will post updates as we get them below.
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Thor was fed chopped meats during the time that his jaw was healing, but it’s done healing now and he isn’t wanting to kill or eat rats. We found the beak of a bird in his cage, so we presumed that one had managed to get in and get caught by Thor, so we tried him with quail. Ms Claws caught her quail very quickly, but it took Thor longer than we would have liked. We will be counting on our explore.org viewers, who provided these lovely photos, to let us know how his hunting goes.
He may just need more time to rebuild the muscle mass he’s lost while on cage rest for his broken shoulder blade.
Thor ate 17 ounces of food for breakfast. He’s taking his meds (with a lot of insistence by Jamie) and grooming, but still doesn’t seem to have figured out the water issue. We are still working on ideas. Maybe pond water?
Update Feb 11, 2016
Thor ate 15 ounces of food off a plate, without having to be fed on a stick, but he’s still not drinking. We bought him one of those $100 water fountains, and he’s figured out it is water, because he’s using it as a self flushing toilet. Cats pee in streams and ponds so that others don’t know they are in the area. Now we just have to figure out how to get him to drink out of it, AND elevate it so he can’t pee in it.
Update Feb 10, 2016
Jamie Relays Thor’s Rescue Story to Ops Mgr Gale
Update Feb 6, 2016 Thor Reaches Out
The Eye Drops Seem To Be Working
Update Feb 6, 2016 Thor Lives!
The day after Thor’s surgery to repair his jaw I woke up and raced to my computer to see if he had survived the night on our Arlo cams. Jamie and Gale help me monitor those live webcams, but they don’t offer a public link, like the explore.org/bigcatrescue live webcams do.
Update Feb 5, 2016 4PM
Thor the bobcat is back from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay where Dr. Justin Boorstein repaired his jaw. We are waiting on deciding if the non working eye and broken canine should be removed. We will consult with experts on both to see if either can be saved.
Thor is recovering in the West Boensch Cat Hospital on site and will soon be moved outside.
Thor’s care instructions to the Bobcat Rehab Team
Thor had surgery to repair his lower broken jaw. The break in his upper jaw was not misaligned, and so it will be left to heal on its own. This means that we need to be very careful about spooking him. We do not want him banging up his face when it is in this fragile state. He gets scared very easy, so walk slowly around him and be very quiet.
We are consulting with Dr. Miller with regards to how we can try to save his left eye. He is currently not blinking, and so we may need to try eye drops until the swelling goes down and he is able to blink. Justin and I will try this tomorrow and see how it goes.
For now he is not on any meds, we wanted to see if he would eat tonight before starting them. I will feed and clean him in the morning tomorrow. After that I will update you all on what medications he will need to be on.
We want to keep his meals small the first few days or so. He can only have soft food, so we are going to feed him a tennis ball of mush in the AM and another in the PM.
Every year we pull from the hat one of our supporters who has signed up for the Animal Lover’s Dream Vacation. This year’s winner was Mia Voss and she’s bringing her friend Courtney Smith Kramer, since the vacation is for two people. This could turn out to be as big a deal for our cats as it is for the winners, as they have a huge audience who will be following their adventures here. Watch for a lot of Snap Chatting, Live Facebook Feeds, Twitter posts and more while they are here.
Mia Voss and Courtney Smith Kramer road trip around the U.S. using social media to amplify the positive stories of small businesses doing great work. And they are taking their show on the road to Big Cat Rescue on May 19 & 20 – follow the adventures at https://www.facebook.com/ DrivenTheShow/?fref=ts
of MiaOnTheGo.com – Travel blogger, entrepreneur, brand ambassador, online interviewer and the ultimate people connector. Her engaging & energized style of engagement showcases businesses and allows them to create more leverage with online video content. Mia has been the producer, host and guest on more than 300 episodes of shows and has interviewed more than 500 guests in the past 2 years.
is the co-founder and Executive Creative Director of PureMatter, a top content, social media and digital agency based in Silicon Valley. She is an accomplished creative strategist, storyteller, writer and designer, and soon-to-be-author, launching her first book “The 21 Reasons Why Creativity is Like Sex” in the Fall of 2016.
Everyone at the sanctuary would like to extend ROARING Big Cat kudos to Advocat’s Miki Y. and her running partner Yung Hae C. in recognition of their amazing accomplishment in having run and successfully completed the Boston Marathon in support of the magnificent creatures that call Big Cat Rescue home!
Miki and her friend not only helped promote BCR while running the Boston Marathon by wearing their custom designed Big Cat singlets, but also raised over $1000 in support of the cats via the sponsorship of family, friends and colleagues!
Miki and Yung Hae reported that they received a ROARING number of “Go Big Cat!” cheers along the course of this historic marathon.
Miki also ran and successfully completed the New York Half Marathon in support of the cats and excitedly reported that as she approached a band on the course, they suddenly started playing “Eye of the Tiger”!!!
Here is how you can tell “who is who”.
Here are some photos of Miki running in the custom designed Big Cat Rescue singlets.
A friend of hers (Yung Hae C.) wore them for Boston.
She’s the one with the “Citgo” sign in the back ground. They dressed a like, but Miki’s the one with white compression socks.
They both got a lot of “Go Big Cat!”.
There is also a NYC Half photo of Miki.
This was epic because as she approached a band on the course, they suddenly started playing “Eye of the Tiger”!!!
We don’t know if it was coincidence or if they actually recognized Big Cat Rescue, but would like to think they did.
That’s almost always the first question out of the mouths of people who are contemplating visiting Big Cat Rescue, or said almost immediately upon arrival. After 24 years of this unbelievably stupid question, I nearly bite my tongue in half in order to calmly explain all of the reasons why that is cruel to the cubs, and their mothers, and why it is disrespectful and dangerous. I tell myself they just don’t know, and I need to say it in a way that doesn’t sound like I think they are either ignorant or selfish.
But there really are only two reasons that people want to pet big cats.
They are ignorant.
They are selfish.
Forgive me for being blunt, but if you can walk an hour and a half in my shoes (and I will condense that tour time to about 5 minutes here) then maybe you can help me find a way to get the message out better than I have. At this point I’m considering doing one of those roadside sign campaigns, like the old Burma Shave ads. As people drive the quarter mile of dirt road to our gate, maybe I could post signs that say, No Cub Petting, No, You Can’t Pet the Tigers, Absolutely Not! You Are NOT Going to Pet Wild Cats Here! but given what I hear on my tours, I don’t think it would help.
All of our tours start the same; we have people sign a release form but we assure them that we are a NO TOUCH facility, so they won’t be coming in contact with the big cats.
Then we show them a video with all the rules, including quite a bit focusing on making sure they keep their hands on their side of the barricades that are about 4-5 feet from the cages so that they don’t come in contact with the cats.
Then I lead them into the sanctuary and start out by trying to head them off at the pass. I know what they are going to say. Despite being told twice (or more), the first words out of their mouths once the tour begins will be, “Are there any big cats we can pet?” So I just address it before giving them a chance to open their mouths and state again that we don’t touch the cats here. I explain that even I don’t touch them unless it is for some medical purpose to save their lives, and even then, I don’t go in cages with the cats unless they are restrained by the vet or locked up. I tell them that:
The main reason there is so much big cat abuse is because people will pay to pet cubs.
The cubs are ripped from their mothers, when only hours or days old, to be used extensively and then discarded when they get too big.
The cubs never get to return to their mothers and suffer all kinds of health and psychological issues from being separated.
Cats are 12 times stronger, pound for pound, than humans are, and would kill us just in play.
None of the cats bred for cub handling serve any sort of conservation purpose.
None of the big cats bred in cages can ever be released back to the wild.
Cubs who were used and discarded sometimes end up in the illegal trade for their parts.
Breeding big cats for life in cages provides a smokescreen for illegal activities like poaching.
Our keepers spend two years caring for bobcats and servals before they can care for the lions, tigers & leopards who could kill them.
Even though we provide as much space and enrichment as possible, there is no way to humanely keep wild cats captive.
At the end of all of that, invariably, the guest will ask, “So when do we get to pet a cub?”
At that point, I usually want to just escort them right back to the parking lot, refund their tour fee and tell them to go educate themselves but that’s not going to happen. These people have been brought into my world because they need educating and they probably aren’t going to get it anywhere else. I’m dumbfounded at how they have come to be so uneducated about wild cats. Why is it ubiquitous that people expect they should be able to pet a lion or a tiger or even a bobcat. What planet are they from where that’s OK?
You may think I am ranting after just having a bad group on my tour, but at least 90% of the tours I give have someone, or everyone, on them asking REPEATEDLY to pet a big cat or a cub. So, I keep the tour going, trying to manage my tone, and repeating to them, in different ways, dumbing it down with each progressive response, to explain why they are not going to pet a wild animal here and why it is cruel to do so. I explain why we don’t breed exotic cats for life in cages, and that all of our cats who live together are spayed or neutered, to prevent any “accidents.”
And invariably, they will continue to ask if they can pet a cub or a big cat as we continue our walk.
By the end of the tour I’m usually exhausted from having to manage my temper for an hour and a half. Some people will have “gotten it” and that makes it worth while. Others will ask if there are other places they can go to pet a cub, and all I can do is look at them in utter disbelief and tell them that our goal is to put ourselves out of business by ending the cub petting industry, so “No, I’m not going to tell you where you can go pet a cub.”
Where Do People Get the Idea That It’s OK for Them to Pet Exotic Cats?
People have come here wanting to pet cubs since the 90’s so I think it came from shows like Flipper, Daktari, Honey West, etc. where they saw people handling wild animals and wanted to be like them. Talk show hosts, like Johnny Carson, Conan, and Jay Leno would bring on wranglers like Jack Hanna and Jim Fowler, who would bring baby wild animals on T.V. to increase ratings. People like the “Lion Whisperer” were romanticized on television. When the Internet came along and everyone started carrying camera phones, the cub handling industry took off. Tiger pimps would set up in malls and charge $20 a person for people to use the cubs for their selfie shots. Big Cat Rescue pretty much killed that practice by educating the owners of more than 200 malls, about why that was so cruel and offensive to people who truly love animals, but it still happens at fairs because those are usually people who don’t care about animal welfare.
There are still tiger, lion and liger mills in the U.S., Mexico, Africa, Thailand and other places that churn out a never ending supply of cute cubs who will be used, abused and discarded or warehoused. Most of them offer the cub petting behind locked gates and don’t allow people to use their own photos or videos, for fear of the public reprisal if it gets out how badly the cubs are treated. For a fee they can buy the photos, taken and screened by the proprietors, to then show off online. That practice is what keeps the cruel cycle repeating. It’s monkey see, monkey do. People see someone handling an exotic cat, or their cub, and they will pay to do it too. Then they come here, with their heads full of the images they have seen, and they just can’t hear what they are being told. They don’t want to hear it. All they can focus on is:
When Can I Pet a Cub?
That’s why I believe there are only two reasons that people pay to play with cubs. Either they don’t know any better, or they are so full of themselves that they can’t hear anything except their own selfish desire to have what they want, no matter the cost to the animal.
USDA says they are going to educate people about why they shouldn’t handle cubs, but that is not going to be a deterrent. The only way to end the abuse of captive big cats is to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act. “Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” ― Martin Luther King
What Can YOU Do?
If you bothered to read this far, you clearly aren’t one of those people who justifies breeding big cats for egotistical purposes. You can call your member of Congress, if you are in the U.S. and ask them to champion the Big Cat Public Safety Act ( http://bigcatact.com ) You can take action on a number of other exotic cat issues at CatLaws.com regardless of where you live.
I think one of the most important things you can do is to speak up when you see abuse. Whenever you see an article or a post, where someone has physical contact with a big cat or their cub, you have the power to educate right there in the moment. Maybe the selfish individual who posted such an image won’t be educated, but you may actually reach some other viewer before they too become part of the problem. If you have other suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments below, but please refrain from cursing.
Fires were sweeping across Florida in the direction of the sanctuary in 1999 due to drought conditions.
At that time the fire department warned us that we were on our own because we were surrounded by woods, not human habitation, and they wouldn’t be bringing their fire trucks down the pot hole ridden, quarter mile of bad road, called Easy Street that led to our gate. We began installing sprinkler systems on the cats’ cages and had firehoses of our own at the ready to use the dwindling lake water to save our cats. I felt helpless and did the only thing I could, from a personal perspective.
I quit eating red meat, and so did my teen age daughter.
At least I could save some water by not eating meat because it takes about 9 gallons of water to raise one pound of beef. That proved to be pretty difficult in the 90s as there weren’t many choices in the grocery stores and almost none in restaurants. Now that’s different and there are lots of great vegetarian and vegan choices.
Jamie and I still maintain a primarily plant based diet and are stronger and healthier than most of our peers. I hope you will check out the app and see if there are some meals that you could replace with some healthier, tastier, planet friendlier options. – Carole Baskin