The cats, rescued in July 2015, were released to the Preserve on Thursday, February 4, 2016.
Venus Flatwoods Preserve is located in Highlands County, west of Lake Okeechobee, and has been protected and managed by The Nature Conservancy for over 20 years. This 100-acre property provides the perfect habitat for the bobcats. The preserve includes one of the few remaining areas of old growth longleaf pine forest in Florida and is home to many species of wildlife. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker has been observed onsite. The property is surrounded by timber, citrus, and cattle ranch land, and its borders are not adjacent to highways or heavily trafficked areas that would endanger the cats.
“The Nature Conservancy’s Venus Flatwoods Preserve is the perfect location for these two young bobcats. We expect them to do very well in the healthy, maintained habitat of this protected property,” said Adam Peterson, Central Florida Fire and Land Management Specialist, The Nature Conservancy.
The sibling bobcats, named Rain (male) and Dancer (female), were rescued by Big Cat Rescue as kittens when they were found on the side of a highway without their mother in Highlands County. Thanks to the efforts of Big Cat Rescue’s bobcat rehabilitation team, the wild cats were provided with the care and training they needed to be returned to the wild. Cameras will be set up on the preserve in an effort to continue to monitor the now nine-month old cats.
“Rain and Dancer have grown up to become strong, healthy bobcats equipped with the skills to return to the wild where they belong,” said Jamie Veronica, President of Big Cat Rescue. “We are thrilled that they will be released on a vast, protected property where they will be able to find everything they need to thrive.”
Bobcats are found throughout Florida. They prefer deep forests, and are also adaptable to swamps, hammock, and rural landscapes, as well as urban and suburban backyards.
If you love bobcats kittens and want to be part of our efforts to rescue them from certain death, rehab them for life in the wild and then have the pleasure of helping them get back to the wild where they belong, there are several ways you can help.
Wear With Pride
Even if you can’t afford to help, you are their voice. Please be sure to subscribe and share all of our social channels. Just look for BigCatRescue on all of your favorite sharing sites. Use hashtags #BigCatRescue #bobcats and @BigCatRescue
(Warning to chicken lovers, there is a photo on the page of the bobcat eating a chick. These chicks arrive frozen and are the byproduct of the egg industry. All male chicks are usually disposed of at birth. We buy them to feed our cats because whole prey is the most wholesome for the cats.)
We have cameras on the outdoor enclosures, but not enough band width to open it up for public access. Here is a screen capture:
This is just one section of their 5 section rehab run.
Phoenix and Captiva ~ Rescued June 2015
There are two more mouths to feed at Big Cat Rescue! Phoenix and Captiva are two little Florida bobcat kittens who both lost their moms recently in very different, but equally awful ways.
Big Cat Rescue is a licensed bobcat rehabber here in Florida We plan to raise these guys at our sanctuary with as little human interaction as possible so they retain their wildness. When they are full grown, we will teach the kittens to hunt and release them back to the wild in a rural area of Florida.
If you’d like to donate to the care and upbringing of these amazing kittens, click HERE.
Phoenix managed to live through a forest fire last week in Lee County, Florida. Officials hoped to reunite the kitten with his mother, by leaving him near where he was found after an initial assessment that he seemed ok. But three days later, the kitten was dehydrated and still calling frantically for his mother, so he was sent on June 1 to the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife (CROW). Staff at CROW evaluated Phoenix and helped him recover well before delivering both kittens to Big Cat Rescue on June 25, 2015 for the next phase of their rehab for release.
We think there could be no more appropriate name than Phoenix, the mythological symbol who raises from the ashes to be reborn.
Here is a compilation of news stories about Phoenix:
The larger kitten doesn’t have a name, and I am just using Captiva here as a holding space.
Captiva’s story is every bit as heart rending, but didn’t make the news. She was the one Big Cat Rescue agreed to take first. Gareth Johnson, the CROW Hospital Manager, worked with us a few years ago when we rehabbed and released bobcat Copter. Gareth called Big Cat Rescue on June 1 to report that some people had trapped a bobcat kitten and then left it in the trap without food or water for a couple days before deciding they should feed her something. Of course, they had no idea what to feed a 4-week-old nursing bobcat kitten, so what they fed her made her sick. Lucky for Captiva, they finally made a good decision and dropped her off at CROW. The kitten was stabilized, despite the fact that she arrived in such bad shape no one thought that was possible.
CROW has state of the art medical facilities, but is not set up for bobcat rehab. Raising and rehabilitation a bobcat requires a lot of space and infrastructure. Gareth called and asked if we would be able to take the little one. I told him that I’d be happy to drive the 5-hour round trip to pick up the little darling. Gareth wanted to do a SNAP test first and said he’d call me to come get her as soon as that was done.
Meanwhile Phoenix, the bobcat kitten who survived the forest fire, was directed by the Florida Wildlife Commission to be sent to CROW and he arrived that same evening, June 1.
It’s not even 2 days into the new year and I got another bobcat call.
I was on my way in to work when I got a call from our Gift Shop that a man had walked in and asked if we were missing a bobcat. I’m always surprised at how many Floridians don’t know that bobcats are native to our state. What had started out as a beautiful morning, quickly turned dark and dreadful.
As I approached the location it was clear, from the beautiful spotted underbelly facing the sky, that the animal who was being hit time and time again by motorists, was indeed a bobcat. I waited for a break in traffic to run out and retrieve her broken body. Usually bobcats seem to make it out of the roadway, or at least to the shoulder of the road, but she had been crushed so many times, that it felt like my heart would break into as many shards, when I felt her in my trembling hands. I thought about the male bobcat who had lost his life at this same crossing just a little over a month ago. On both sides of Sheldon Road there is massive development underway to add more stores, homes and a recent emergency clinic. Ironic…
I vowed to create a document to track all of these calls. We have done a good job of documenting the bobcats we have rescued, but what about all of the times when we didn’t get there in time? We have gotten 12 bobcat calls in the last year; four of them were dead on arrival and we never did find the fifth bobcat, although we did find blood on the pavement. Right now we have 6 bobcat kittens in rehab and hope to release all of them this year. While it brings great joy to return them to their rightful place, it is just barely enough to make up for the pain of finding the broken bodies of those we can’t help.
So many campaigns suggest that you should give wildlife a “brake” and it’s a lovely sentiment, but it you have ever seen a bobcat run, then you know there is no way a person could avoid hitting one if the cat darted out in front of them. The only real solution is to build under and over passes that connect major green ways for the animals and high fences with a cantilever at the top to keep wildlife from scaling them. The straight, 8 foot fences that are used current are totally inadequate. These are pricey projects, but without them we will lose our wildlife and all that is beautiful and pure in this world.
We are working hard to end the private possession of exotic cats and doing so would put us out of business. We really look forward to that day, but I know that won’t be an end to the long days and sleepless nights. We will always provide rehab and release for native bobcats and that need seems to be increasing. It’s hard to know if the number of bobcat calls are escalating, or if it is just that people know to call us now, because we are so well known for our premiere rehab facilities. 12 calls were an all time high in 2015 and were three times higher than any year, dating back to 1994. Even other rehabbers will often call us for the time consuming and costly process of getting a bobcat ready for release back to the wild.
We have a major project underway at the sanctuary for a Small Cat Fun area, similar to our Vacation Rotation, but as soon as it is done we need to begin fundraising for a complete overhaul of our Bobcat Rehab enclosures. We have had to temporarily outfit cages for bobcat rehab that were not designed for that purpose and while it works, and is better than any other options out there for rehab, it isn’t optimal. We want to start from scratch to build rehab enclosures that are bigger, allow for more muscle toning, and that are further away from human encroachment. With more than 30 years of bobcat rehab under out belts, we know what we need and think our donors will help us make it a reality. If saving native bobcats and returning them to nature appeals to you, then you can help out here:
DOB appx 10/1/11 – 12/13/15
On Mar 5 we got a call from the Florida Wildlife Commission asking if we could help a blind bobcat that had been reported by the Manager of the Cemex Mine. His name is Tommie and he loves the wildlife that calls his land a sanctuary. He knew there was something desperately wrong with this little kitten from the first day he saw her, which was about two weeks before.
We made arrangements to drive up to the mine on Mar 6 to set a humane trap because the kitten had not been seen since Feb 27. Jamie and I drove up with a trap, nets, carrier, and bait for four days and Tommie Deaner agreed to check and set the trap daily.
On the way to Center Hill Tommie texted that the bobcat was in sight and that he had caught some fish for her and was feeding her. Jamie texted back to stop because traffic had us running a half hour late. Since there was no way to get a fish away from a starving bobcat, Tommie improvised and got a box out of the trash to trap her in.
When Jamie and I drove up we were waved to the scene by Cemex staff. When we saw the box we were thrilled at the prospect of NOT having to chase a bobcat all over place. The problem was that the box didn’t have a bottom.
We slid a piece of plywood under the box, like you would pick up a spider with a cup and cardboard (per Jamie) and then put the whole thing in the van. The plan was to shift her from the box to the carrier inside the van, so that if the bobcat escaped, she was at least trapped in the van… with us. Well, that part wasn’t very appealing, but it was better than the risk of losing her and having her starve to death.
If you have never seen Jamie net a cat; you haven’t seen art in motion. Quicker than a blink she had her in the net and backed up to the carrier door. Since she really couldn’t see well enough to put up much of a fight, we got her in the carrier pretty neatly. She growled for a while, but the belly full of fish and the swaying motion of the van for an hour and a half put her right to sleep.
She was suffering from starvation, blindness and parasites and was so badly debilitated that she will never be a candidate for release. She has very limited, if any sight, so she will spend the rest of her life at Big Cat Rescue.
Tommie Girl watches Gale and the interns cleaning out Canyon Sandcat’s third section to prepare it for a tunnel, all of the weeds out of Nirvana Ocelot’s enclosure and many more landscaping projects.
On 12/13/15 Tommie Girl was found laying next to her water bowl, completely drenched, as if she had a seizure and had dumped the bowl on herself in the process. Keepers found her breathing shallowly and staring out into space. The vet happened to be right next door and rushed in, but she was dead within minutes. We sent her entire body out for necropsy to two facilities in Georgia, but despite one of them specializing in brain issues, neither could determine her cause of death. She was one of our youngest residents and we never expected to lose her so soon, even though she had arrived with severe neurological issues.
It is very rare that we get video of Tommie, so this was a real treat!
We have so much to be thankful for; wonderful people like you who help ensure that our big cats stay fed, our AdvoCats all around the world who work for laws to end the abuse of big cats, our Big Cat Rescuers who donate their time to caring for the cats, running the sanctuary and educating our guests, and to live in paradise. This issue is our gift to you!
Holiday Goody Gifts for YOU!
Big Cat Rescue has teamed up with Explore.org who is hosting LIVE STREAMING video of the cats. See tigers playing, swimming, sleeping, and eating. Watch Nikita lioness as she plays and sleeps. Watch adorable funny kittens playing.
FIRST: Go to http://Explore.org/BigCatRescue to see the live streaming videos and use the “Snapshot” feature there to take your own photos of the lions, tigers, and kittens.
EVERY photo submission gets YOUR NAME placed in a drawing for a free t-shirt.
SECOND: Submit your photos to us before midnight on Christmas Eve. The T-Shirt Winner will be announced on Christmas Day. We will pick 30 photos to include in a special edition screensaver that we will give away Christmas Day. Find out how to submit your photos here, where it says, Win A FREE Big Cat Rescue T-Shirthttp://chatbigcats.com/newsletter-gifts-december-2015/
Video Updates Since the Last Mews Letter
Bobcat Release Site Needed in Highlands County FL
State law requires that bobcats be released back to the same county where they were picked up for rehab. Rain and Dancer came from Highlands County, so we need a release site that is in excess of 40 acres (the more land the better) where the owner will give us written permission to release them. If you have land, or know a land baron, please email Cat@BigCatRescue.org and let us know.
Can’t Get Enough of the Big Cats?
Now you can watch them LIVE on explore.org/bigcatrescue Check out each of the webcams below:
Windsong Memorial Cat Hospital
AdvoCats Come in All Sizes
Our AdvoCats come in all ages, from all over the US and the world. Eleven year-old Alexander P. proves that anyone who cares about big cats can make a difference. For the past two years Alexander has supported Big Cat Rescue through our Buy a Brick program by collecting donations rather than gifts for his birthday. This school year, he and his fellow classmate are organizing a school fundraiser to sponsor one of our very own bobcats in honor of their school mascot.
Just this week, Alexander’s family surprised him with an early Christmas gift – a trip from Maryland to our sanctuary in Tampa, FL! During his visit Alexander learned more about the issues of private ownership and about our federal bill, the Big Cat Public Safety Act. Wanting to voice his support for big cats, Alexander plans on visiting the Capital next year to meet with legislators and tell them just how important this bill is to him. Thank you for all that you do for the cats, Alexander!
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.
Here are a few pages that show the K-Laser therapy for Little Feather:
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.