“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 There are rehabber lists, but they are always outdated and just about useless.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.