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 about a quarter of a million dollars.
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. http://www.yourfencestore.com/ lists 10 gauge, 1 inch mesh for 11.14 per linear foot which means a retail cost.
Below are mockups by Kenni Pedersen of what the bobcat rehab runs will look like.
Mr. Claws has done a great job of healing and preparing for life in the wild, so in the next few days he will be 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.
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.
(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: