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.
Thanks to explore.org we have a webcam on one of our Rehab Bobcat enclosures where viewers can watch the current residents as they recover from injuries, or learn how to be bobcats when they grow up. http://explore.org/live-cams/player/big-cat-rescue-bobcat-rehab-and-release
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:
To see some of our rehab bobcat rescue videos:
If saving native bobcats and returning them to nature appeals to you, then you can help out here: