Meet the 2 lb Rehab Rescue Bobcat named Spirit Feather
July 20, 2016: Another 2am success story! When this little bobcat was separated from her mom, and found in the middle of the road, good samaritans turned her in at a clinic in the middle of the state. Who are you going to call at 10:30 pm when you have a bobcat in a box taped shut? Big Cat Rescue, of course.
One look at that defiant little face and you know you are going to have your hands full!
Despite her tiny size Spirit Feather inspires her new name with her ferocity. Feather was a tribute to our blessed Little Feather, but this little bobcat showed us that Spirit just had to be part of her new name.
Dr. Justin Boorstein, DVM and Jamie Veronica Boorstein, have their hands full while trying to do a SNAP test and give the first set of kitten shots to Spirit Feather. Even though handling her is difficult, it’s exactly what we want for her. She needs to see humans as the enemy if she is going to survive in the wild one day.
Ms. Claws has not grown like she should and has been too small to take on the kind of prey she needs to survive. We are giving her more time in rehab to put on some size (she’s fat, but tiny) and to hone her skills.
Mr. Claws has done a great job of healing and preparing for life in the wild, so he was returned to the same county where he was found and set free.
You can help us rescue, rehab and release bobcats, like Mr. Claws with the purchase of this fun, new tee called, My Bobcat’s in Rehab.
Meet Mr. and Mrs. Claws
Having been rescued from Christmas, Florida, we just couldn’t resist the timely names. Help make their holiday wishes come true by supporting their rehab and release back to the wild.
We wish they could talk, because it would take a lot of the guesswork out of their care. Based on the injuries and and reports by Carol Hardee, the rehabber who was the first on the scene for both kittens, here is how it probably happened.
See the video at the bottom of the page to understand why they were separated. The webcam footage is black and white and grainy because it was captured after dark using IR cameras.
September 2015 Mrs Claws:
Only a few weeks old, and not barely 3 pounds, she was being shaken to the core. She could barely breathe due to the crushing jaws that had snatched her from her den. Being shaken wildly, she could barely think, much less scream out for her mother, to return and save her. The tiny bobcat was flung into the air, and hitting the ground rolled a few feet, but before she could gather her balance to run, she was snatched up again. She was being carried away by some monster that was having fun playing with her, like she was a toy, but she was bleeding and this “toy” wasn’t going to last long.
With every last bit of strength, and every thing she learned from being raised by one of the most fierce of all felines, she bit and clawed back. She aimed for the eyes and the sensitive nose, since that’s all she could reach from her vantage point of being held in the mouth of this creature. With a yelp her freedom had been secured. She didn’t know if it would be for a moment, or for good. She had to find her mother as soon as possible. She was just too young to be dealing with this terror on her own.
She called and called, but she’d been carried too far away. Her mother couldn’t find her and she was too small and too badly injured to find her way back to the nest. But Carol Hardee, of the Wildlife Rehab Center, found her and began treating her life threatening wounds.
The kitten doubled in size, but was reaching an age when she would need to be transferred to a rehab center that could teach her to hunt. A mother will spend a year and a half, or more, teaching her kittens how to hunt, how to stay away from people and how to survive in a tough world. This kitten was about ready to make that move, to a new stage of training, when Mr. Claws arrived on the scene.
November 5 2015 Mr Claws
He had found a warm spot under the hood of a car to hide until dark. He’d gotten too far out of the woods for his own good, and now there were kids running wild in the YMCA parking lot, so he figured he would just wait it out. The one thing his mother hadn’t taught him about being a bobcat, is that you should never go near cars, even if they are sitting still and being silent.
When the owner returned, the slam of the door almost gave him enough notice, but not quite. The key turned in the ignition and a ton of metal gears, belts and a fan roared to life. The fan both cut him to the bone in one leg, while snapping another leg bone in two. He was flipped out to the pavement beneath. As the owner of the car backed out of the parking space, he saw the young bobcat trying desperately to pull himself to safety with his front paws.
Not knowing what to do, the auto driver called the police. They called the Florida Wildlife Commission and between them managed to capture the broken little bobcat in a box.
Again, the closest rehabber was Carol Hardee, of the Wildlife Rehab Center, who does her life saving work from a ranch in the woods, on Reindeer Lane in Christmas, Florida.
Due to family matters she was not able to get the bobcat X-rayed, but could see that he was not recovering properly and it really was time for the little female to start to learn to hunt. Carol Hardee called Carole Baskin, of Big Cat Rescue to see if we could take both bobcats and finish their rehab and release.
Jamie Veronica made the 5 hour round trip, ending at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, where Mr. Claws was rushed into X-ray. Jamie’s husband, Dr. Boorstein, had enlisted the help of Dr. Bard and tech, Jamie Gibbs, and the four of them worked on saving Mr. Claws leg for the next 4 hours.
There was no handling this wild child, so he had to be sedated.
The vets were able to get a good look at his face, noting a slight ulceration to the eye, and some broken and missing teeth. The gash was cleaned and sewed up. His tail had been separated in the spinal column, but no outer damage was visible. It could have happened in the accident, or someone may have grabbed him by the tail trying to save him. The tail may be dead and might have to be amputated later.
The damage to the back leg bone is obvious, but what is less obvious is that the pelvis is cracked and uneven. This may heal or may need further surgery. Dr. Boorstein is consulting with orthopedic specialist, Dr. Callum Hay.
Humane Society of Tampa Bay vet tech, Jamie Gibbs, prepares Mr. Claws for surgery.
Dr. Justin Boorstein and Dr. Bard working to save Mr. Claws leg.
Pins in the bone to hold it together under the skin. You can’t put a cast on a wild cat. They will chew it or their leg off.
We can’t know for certain what happened to either of these kittens before they arrived here, but one thing we do know for certain is that we will always be here to help wild cats like them, as long as you are by our side.
We Sure Hope They Kiss and Make Up Before Valentine’s Day
More Photos of Mr and Mrs Claws
Mr. and Mrs. Claws are in our onsite West Boensch Cat Hospital temporarily. Soon we hope to send them to a far larger outdoor space where they can begin to get ready for life in the wild. At this writing we have 6 bobcats in rehab and desperately need to build a larger rehab area to accommodate this growing need.
He’s in the hospital until we get a clean fecal sample from him. If he doesn’t have hookworms he will be cleared to go out in the 1200 sf enclosure next to Ms Claws. For now you can check in on him here, but be very, very quiet: https://video.nest.com/live/2zgUFP
Cage rest sounds pretty peaceful for the cat, but it’s a real challenge for the caregivers.
See 2 playlists of some of our rehab bobcats
While we do bobcat rescue, rehab and release in Florida, we will not relocate bobcats as state law requires that they be released very near where they were captured. They must be released on at least 40 acres and we must get written permission from the owner of the property. They may not be released into state owned parks (strangely) but rather must be released on privately owned land with the land owner’s consent.
Big Cat Rescue has decades of experience rehabbing and releasing bobcats back to the wild where they belong. We provide huge, naturalistic enclosures where these cats can learn or perfect their hunting skills before being released back to the wild. We have trained staff who are experts at capturing an injured bobcat or hand rearing orphaned bobcats until a surrogate can be found.
We go to great lengths to keep these wild cats from imprinting on humans and monitor their care via surveillance cameras to make sure they are thriving. When they are healed, or old enough for release (about 18 months of age) we find the best habitat possible for sustaining them and set them free to live out the life that nature intended.
If you have a bobcat emergency in a state other than Florida, we can help you find a rehabber or will be a resource to wildlife rehabilitators who need help with bobcats, lynx or cougars. When you are searching for a bobcat rehabber ask the following questions:
1. Do they have experience with bobcats?
2. How big are their rehab enclosures? (Ours start at 1200 square feet and some are double that)
3. Do they feed a live diet of prey to insure that the cats will be able to hunt for themselves?
4. Do they keep people, including themselves to the extent possible, away from the bobcat so that they do not imprint on people and end up approaching humans after release?
5. Do they have a vet on staff or on call 24/7 for emergencies?
Rehabbing and releasing bobcats is much more difficult that the rehabilitation of most wildlife. These magnificent little wildcats need every opportunity to fulfill their role in nature and Big Cat Rescue is here to give them that second chance.
We are thinking the bobcat rehab rebuild is going to run $345,000.00
The area that would be most suitable on our property would allow a foot print of about 200 feet by 800 feet and would give us about 1/3 of that in thick woods and 2/3 in grassy runs. The woods are a blessing and a curse when we are talking chain link boxes.
Click map to see larger
The pink areas are our permanent big cat residents. The green shaded area is where we want to move our bobcat rehab facilities. It will be the opposite end of our property from the new hotel that is going in on Easy Street.
The 18 acre lake was dug out by the previous owner and then he was filling it in, starting w/ the green shaded area, with concrete and construction materials from demolition sites. He dug the lake down to 30 feet in places, so we could have that much concrete to drill through.
Wild bobcats DO dig, so we have to have a floor. That’s why I was thinking that a big chain link box, complete with roof and floor, might actually work there. It would have to be 1 in mesh and at least 11.5 gauge to meet state standards and keep their live rats from escaping. We would put dirt, grass and shrubs over the flooring after install.
This year we had 7 bobcats in rehab, which is the most we’ve had at one time, but as our reputation for successful releases grows, more cats seem to end up here, so we need to be ready for that growing demand.
We are confident that we can end the practice of private ownership of big cats, so the wildlife rehab work will expand as the need for big cat sanctuaries decreases with our legislative wins.
We own the three houses and two barns that are south of the green shaded area, so there is water, power and Internet nearby. The main house and the two barns have a life estate by the elderly owner though, so I’d have to build something for indoor care of injured cats, but it wouldn’t have to be huge because of the opportunity to take over the existing structures soon.
Currently the intensive care is done in our on site Cat Hospitals, but it would really be nice to have the wild bobcats totally away from the hubbub of the sanctuary, in their own recovery facilities adjoining the outdoor runs.
What I envision here are 8 long, narrow runs, maybe 20 by 230 each, that could be opened up into 4 that are 20 x 470 when there are 4 or fewer cats. Still puzzling about how to make the space expandable, without shared walls, which are just a tragedy waiting to happen.
Whether a bobcat comes to us injured or orphaned, they usually go through these stages:
1. Inside intensive care
2. Outside, small (low) cages so they don’t climb and fall.
3. 1000 -2500 square feet of space to perfect their hunting, climbing, hiding skills.
Another factor that I haven’t quite figured out yet, is how to mount cameras so that we can make sure the cats are doing well, and to engage the public. Our Bobcat Rehab camera is very popular at http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-bobcat-rehab-and-release and a great way to engage people in caring about wildlife, so I want to build it with a goal of it being a good virtual visual experience.
Each cage will require 27,120 sf of 1 in chain link mesh. Or roughly 64,750 linear feet of 8 foot high chain link mesh.
Below are mockups by Kenni Pedersen of what the bobcat rehab runs will look like.
Mr. Howell is approximately five years old and was Lovey’s mate. He is declawed on all four paws and his left ear is folded over most likely the result of a past injury.
The two of them shared a cramped cage about 5’x13′. Their only shelter was a small plastic dog house that they managed to cram themselves into to escape the cold weather. The also had a tiny child’s play table to perch on.
Mr. Howell was not neutered and it is most likely that Lovey has not been spayed as their previous owner was a breeder. So the two of them were separated upon their arrival at Big Cat Rescue until they could be neutered and spayed.
Mr. Howell has a strange coat pattern and coloring, and had almost no fur on arrival, so it was believed that he may be some sort of bobcat wildcat hybrid, but now that he is healthy and fully furred he looks like a pure bobcat.
Mr. Howell loves his large rock cave and spends most of his time on top of this mountain observing his surroundings. Mr. Howell also loves spice bag enrichment! Big Cat Rescuers were in awe to see his reaction to the first enrichment he has probably ever received. Mr. Howell rolled around on the ground, rubbing his face on the bag, and pawing at the fun new toy.
Little White Dove is well known for her beautiful golden eyes. She chose to bond and live with Running Bear. Though she was once food aggressive, as so many of the wildcats here are, she now defers to Running Bear at feeding time. She will even allow him to be fed before her.
During the day, they spend much of their time perched high up in their tree sleeping. Seeing them up there, it is easy for guests to understand the nocturnal nature of bobcats and how easily they can camouflage themselves in trees. Despite development and human encroachment of their habitat, bobcats can sometimes manage to stay hidden from view and manage to survive.
Most of our bobcats were rescued from fur farms where they were being raised to slaughter for their fur. Some were being sold at auction where taxidermists would buy them and club them to death in the parking lot, but a few were born here in the early days when we were ignorant of the truth and were being told by the breeders and dealers that these cats should be bred for “conservation.” Once we learned that there are NO captive breeding programs that actually contribute to conservation in the wild we began neutering and spaying our cats in the mid 1990’s. Knowing what we do about the intelligence and magnificence of these creatures we do not believe that exotic cats should be bred for lives in cages. Read more about our Evolution of Thought HERE
Little Feather was five days old when she came to Big Cat Rescue. She had been bred at a game farm that bred bobcats and cougars. Game farms often breed wild animals to be shot as game, or to be exploited in other awful ways. One of the most common is one that you have probably seen.
If you have ever seen bobcat or lynx mothers with their kittens in a field of flowers, you have probably seen game farm cats. Photographers will pay a lot for images they can’t get in the wild because no mother bobcat or lynx is going to let you get anywhere near her kittens.
The mothers are drugged, and wired down in place behind the flowers or log so you can’t see that their back legs are tightly secured to the ground. The kittens are turned loose and they run to their mothers. As she awakens, surrounded by photographers, she is terrified and gives them the hissing images they know will sell.
The photo session is concluded by the mother being darted again so that she can’t move. This constant drugging destroys her kidneys and she will die young, but game farmers just consider that the cost of doing business. Kittens who don’t look just right, or who grow too old are discarded as pets, to hunting ranches and other bad places.
Please, don’t buy books, calendars or other items with wildcat mom and kitten photos and don’t pass them around on social sites, unless you know that they were really taken in the wild or at a sanctuary that doesn’t buy, breed or sell wild animals.
When Little Feather arrived we began bottle feeding her, and she quickly became everyone’s little darling. Her surrogate mother was Breezy, a freebred domestic cat rescued from the streets.
Little Feather was very sickly as a kitten and spent days in a pouch around Carole Baskin’s neck to keep her warm and to monitor her every breath. She never grew to be very big for some unknown reason, and full grown she weighs only 16 pounds.
Little Feather is a very odd looking bobcat, she is stocky and has a fluffy coat like a northern bobcat, but has the dark coat pattern with small spots and her face has little ruff like a southern bobcat. She is likely a cross between the two.
She is now over 20 years old, but still just as cute as a kitten thanks to those huge eyes.
Due to blood clot, Little Feather has been lame in her back leg and has been receiving K-Laser Therapy three times a week thanks to K-Laser Veterinary. She still limps a little, but the overall improvement has been amazing. See the video below to show the progression from the time of lameness until her near recovery.
On June 24, 2016 Little Feather was brought into the West Boensch Cat Hospital as it was clear she was not dealing well with the heat. Since she was pretty much toothless, and declawed on all four paws, and deaf and lame, we felt it was safe enough to allow her the run of the hospital. She enjoyed the A/C, frequent grooming sessions, a wide array of food choices brought every few hours to her and her Cat Sitter DVD. Our friends on explore.org and Facebook kept an eye on her via the Nest cams. She seemed the picture of contentment, until today when her breathing became labored and she acted uncomfortable.
Dr. Justin came and tried to listen to her breathing with a stethoscope, but she was purring so loudly, that he couldn’t hear a thing. We had pulled blood a few days ago, that showed her kidneys were continuing to deteriorate, but she had fought it and we did not get enough blood to do a full work up. With her breathing hard, we knew we couldn’t risk traumatising her again, so we opted to sedate her to draw blood, and get a look in her mouth, at her last couple of teeth, and to do an Xray.
The Xrays were awful because there was something, like fluid, obscuring the view. She appeared to have a mammary mass, but he just couldn’t tell without trying to pull off some of the fluids. That proved to be a lot harder to do than expected, because the fluids were full of blood and clotting material that kept blocking up the needle. We used the Ultrasound machine to try and target the larger pockets of fluids, but each area seemed to be more of a fibrous mass than just fluid. Nothing we were going to do was going to fix that in a 23 year old bobcat, so we tearfully made the decision to help ease her over to the next realm.
2014: Little Feather is a 21 year old bobcat at Big Cat Rescue. She was reported for having a puffy looking chin, which turned out to be some bad teeth. The dental work went fine and she seemed to be well on her way to recovery, so we took her back to her Cat-a-Tat.
When we let her loose, we were horrified to see that she was lame. See how three vets, a number of techs, K-Laser and Big Cat Rescuers all came together to try and give her back the ability to walk.