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.
“I’ll pay you $500.00 if you will turn around and go back to help DNR rescue that bobcat!” I was desperate, because I know how most of the staff, at Department of Natural Resources agencies across America, feel about bobcats. They are just competitors to the hunters who want to shoot the “game” animals themselves. They say things like, “The only good bobcat is a dead bobcat.”
Mike assured me that he didn’t care about the money and that he would go help, if the fish and game officer would allow him, but he really didn’t think that would happen. I’ve kind of gotten ahead of myself though, as I am still pretty upset over the whole ordeal.
3:58 PM I got a call from a surveyor who was working the area of Fulsome Creek Road and Poole Road in Sparta, Georgia. He said he’d come across a bobcat in a leg hold trap who was panting and panicked. He couldn’t get close enough to the cat to free him (you know how bobcats are) but he didn’t want the bobcat to starve to death like the raccoon in the next trap over.
It’s illegal to trap animals, without a license, unless they are considered a nuisance. Even under those circumstances, the law states that you have to check the traps every 24 hours. The raccoon near the bobcat was badly decomposed, so we knew this was either an illegal trap or the trapper wasn’t abiding by the law.
The caller said his name was Mike and that he’d called the Georgia Department of Natural Resources an hour earlier, but no one had called him back. He just couldn’t get the haunting look of the bobcat, left trapped to suffer and die a cruel death, out of his mind.
He called Big Cat Rescue.
I suggested that he try a local vet, who might know a rescue group in the area, but he said Sparta was a “po-dunk town” that didn’t have any vet clinics. I took his name, number, the street intersection (two dirt roads in the middle of nowhere) and said I’d try to track down a rehabber.
I went to the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division to see if I could find any local rehabbers in Hancock County. Rehabbers are a wonderful kind of people, who will risk it all to save wild animals, and nurse them back to health, but I can count on one hand the ones that have any sort of marketing sense. There are rehabber lists, but they are always outdated and just about useless.
There weren’t any wildlife rehabilitaters in Hancock County, so I pulled up a map of surrounding counties. Greene, Taliaferro, Warren, Glascock, Washington, Jefferson, Baldwin and Putnam Counties, and only one rehab facility amongst them.
That one place, the Mockingbird Hill Wildlife Rehab Center, was in the next county over; Washington County.
I called both numbers, left the info at both answering machines, and then turned my attention to local veterinarians.
I called Tim Gress, the person who had run a sanctuary in Georgia, where we had gotten Kali Tiger. He said he was over an hour away and couldn’t leave work. He said he didn’t have the tools to deal with a bobcat anyway. I told him he could come visit Kali and he said he was saving up vacation time to do that.
The closest veterinarian I could find, was also in Washington County, so it would be a long shot, but I called them.
It would be an hour drive for them but it would be 6 and a half hours for me and I can’t take controlled drugs across state lines and couldn’t take the bobcat in any case as I am not licensed in Georgia. By the time I could get there, it would be the middle of the night and no chance that I’d find the bobcat on my own.
I got a kindly woman, with a very southern accent named Amy, and she said she knew the Game Warden, Bryant Adams, in Glascock County. She said that he was the one who covered Hancock County, since they don’t have their own Animal Control Services. She said she would call him. I asked her to call me back if she was not successful. I wasn’t going to let this bobcat chew off his own foot even though I hadn’t figured out what Plan B was going to be.
I’d been calling and texting, back and forth with Jamie Veronica, and she had checked with Dr. Justin Boorstein about any drugs that could be used to sedate a bobcat that might be legal to transport across state lines and he said there were none. Even if we were able to transport the drugs across state lines, we aren’t licensed to use them and he can’t just up and leave work for a two day mission to save the bobcat. AND even if he could, he’s not licensed to practice medicine in Georgia.
4:44 PM I call the surveyor to let him know that I’ve called the vet, who is calling the Glascock Game Warden, and Mike tells me that meanwhile the DNR has called him back. He told the officer where the cat could be found and the officer complained that all he had was a choke stick and he was by himself, so he had no idea how he was going to get the bobcat out of a foothold trap alive. Mike said from the way the guy laughed while saying it, that he feared for the bobcat’s life.
That’s when I said, “I’ll pay you $500.00 if you will turn around and go back to help DNR rescue that bobcat!”
Mike agrees that if the DNR officer will allow it, he’ll drop off his workmate, turn around and make the 45 minute drive back to the scene to help. He gives me the phone number for the officer and I called, but got voicemail, so as I am leaving him a message, with Mike’s offer, a call comes in.
I switch over and it’s a deer rehabber named John Burke who I mistake, initially, for the fish and game officer. Once we clear that up, he tells me that he has no experience with bobcats, but he’s willing to try. He asks what I would do if I didn’t have any way to sedate the cat.
I tell him that we do two nets down over the cat, then a big blanket on top and would try to fish the trapped leg out with gloved hands, to pry off the trap. I give him both the fish and game officer’s number and Mike’s number and suggest that he call DNR first to offer assistance. He says he will.
Meanwhile, our Operations Manager, Gale Ingham, has overheard all of this and gets on the phone with our Gift Shop Manager, Honey Wayton because she thinks Honey has relatives in Georgia. They are all willing to go help someone as well. I get another text from Mike who tells me that a second agent from DNR has contacted him and is going out to help the first one.
Amazing how many people show up to help after all!
So if you are all on edge, like I’ve been all day, you will be thrilled to know that Corporal Dave Allen of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources returned my call the next day to let me know that he had successfully released the bobcat. He said there was minimal damage to the foot and he believed the bobcat would be able to hunt and survive with no further intervention.
Rescued 2/16/2016 10:40 PM 3504 Ogden St Port Charlotte, FL Died 2/19/2016
I would have thought that time had stood still because Jamie was poised, net in the air, leaning impossibly into the space between us on one foot, and she had stopped moving. Interns, Martin and Devin had also stopped mid step with her. You could hear a pin drop into the high grass that was up past our knees, and the freezing cold water that was up over our ankles. It was like how a live feed just freezes, but you aren’t sure if the connection has died, or if all has just gone very, very still.
My racing heart told me that time hadn’t stopped, but everything around the center attraction had.
At the center of this bizarre scene was a bobcat who had been seen vomiting on the side of the road.
A cat vomiting is hardly an emergency situation and certainly not one you would drive two hours to witness, but this one seemed to have extenuating circumstances. Around 6PM a call came in from a Port Charlotte woman named Sandy, who said she had been on her way to the ER regarding her mother, and had seen a bobcat vomiting on the side of the road. When asked to identify what the cat looked like, as most people don’t have any idea what a bobcat looks like, she said, “Well…it looks like a bobcat.”
Jamie asked what a bobcat looked like to Sandy and she said it had a six inch long tail and was half the size of a German Shepherd dog. Before driving 4 hours, round trip, Jamie asked for a cell phone photo, but the woman was too busy with her mother and the hospital. She said her husband had taken some video, but Jamie wasn’t sure they would be willing to pay the data transfer rate to send it. I queried our database and found 103 people in Port Charlotte. I emailed and asked if any of them would drive to the approximated address of Ogden Street, and tell me if there was really a bobcat there.
Over the next few hours, 11 people responded, and several drove to the scene. All but two said there was no bobcat to be seen. Meanwhile the caller did get a photo and did send the video, but we were already on our way. Two of the people we emailed said they saw the bobcat and that they were certain they could wrestle him into a carrier, but Jamie convinced them not to try as the bobcat could hurt them or run off and be impossible for us to find and help.
Two hours seemed like two days, but Jamie used the time to prepare our interns for what was to come. I’m always surprised that after dealing with bobcats, and knowing how mean they can be, that when we say we need volunteers to help rescue one in the wild, they are so eager and fearless to help. Even when answering the question, “what’s the worst you’ve ever been hurt rescuing a bobcat” by saying, “I haven’t had to peel one off my face yet,” they are still keen to give it a shot.
As we pulled up on the scene, Sandy’s husband was dutifully keeping an eye on the bobcat. He brought us up to speed with important facts like how long the cat had been sitting there (5 hours by this time) how close he had been able to get without the cat running (about 10 feet) and he gave us the low down on bobcats in the area, and how they get along with the domestic cats. He and I both held flashlights on the bobcat’s face, so that Jamie, Martin and Devin could circle around behind him and on the side that was open to the road.
The last thing you ever want to do in a bobcat rescue is chase the wounded cat into the path of another car.
The bobcat was on a dry patch of ground, surrounded by the cold water and knee high saw grass. Jamie asked me to make little sounds with my feet, each time he tensed as if he was going to bolt, to divert his attention away from the approaching captors.
He looked pretty washed up; like he had given up and was just waiting to die. He smelled like he had been dead for three days. It was gaggingly wretched to breathe the air surrounding him. Despite that though, you could tell that if he could make a break for it, he was going to give it a try. That’s when Jamie, Devin and Martin had frozen in mid step.
In a motion too quick for me to see, and just a fraction of a second too quick for the bobcat to respond, Jamie’s net was down over him. He leapt against it and thrashed wildly, but Devin and Martin came down with their nets with amazing accuracy and speed.
In the carrier. Not yet.
But Jamie had described how it would need to go, and ran the interns through it one more time to make sure they knew where their nets had to be, and what to do if he managed to slip free during the transfer from the net to the carrier. Given the fact that he looked to be covered in mange, and thoroughly chewed up by some animal, she warned them again not to touch him; no matter what.
You would think the team had done this together for years; it went so smoothly! The husband and wife who had originally called in the incident were now both standing there and nearly broke into applause over the successful capture. Now for the two hour drive back to Big Cat Rescue where Dr. Justin would be done with Mrs. Claws and waiting for the bobcat who was soon to be named Poseidon.
The Vet Examines Poseidon Bobcat
X-rays didn’t show any broken bones. As suspected, the bobcat was covered in mange and had been beaten up by another animal. His face is oozing from the mange infestation. He has a BB under the skin, indicating someone shot at him. He has a belly full of bones, and he may have trouble passing them, as he is so dehydrated.
His face and elbow have been bitten pretty badly. We have to treat the handling of him, as if he has rabies, since we don’t know what bit him.
He’s getting 400 ML of sub q fluids, treatment for the parasites, a long acting antibiotic and pain meds. 6 injections. No broken bones. Poseidon is recovering in our office because the hospital is full.
Poseidon Bobcat Has Died Feb 19, 2016
Sadly Poseidon Bobcat passed away last night sometime between 12-4 AM. Yesterday he seemed to be turning the corner and ate about 3 oz of food, then in the early evening he crashed. We tried fluids, and different medications, but nothing helped. He became unresponsive and could not regulate his body temperature and so he was put on a heating pad. At least he passed away in a safe place comfortable and in his sleep. We will be sending him out to a specialist for a necropsy. We suspect several things including neurological disease, sepsis from his skin infection, and poisoning. Thank you to everyone who helped bring him in and provide him with such special care during his final days.
Poseidon bobcat update Feb 18, 2016
He’s moving from one side of the cage to the other, with considerable effort, and has drank on his own, but still isn’t eating. We are having to give him injections for pain and antibiotics.
Poseidon bobcat update Feb 17, 2016:
Poseidon is alive this morning and already looking a LOT better than he did last night. He is sitting up and drinking on his own.