chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

Chief Spotted Eye

In Memory Of Chief Spotted Eye

Thanksgiving night, we set out to rescue a Florida bobcat that got hit by a car. He had many injuries, but we were determined to do whatever it took to help him. Unfortunately he was suffering more than we thought, and we are saddened by him loss.

Just six days ago

we were counting the seconds between each breath.  This broken little bobcat seemed to have been snatched back, right from the jaws of death, and we all watched him through the night via webcams, praying that he would make it through the night.  He was named Chief Spotted Eye and his story began to reach people all over the globe.

For the next six days we cheered as he went from coughing up huge clots of blood, and gurgling as if he were drowning with each breath, to breathing normally.  He began to eat and drink on his own and we were elated that he felt good enough to make a mess of his enclosure, like any wild bobcat would be expected to do when caged.

By today he was the picture of vitality and we all believed he was strong enough to undergo the surgeries necessary to repair his broken arm and pelvis.  The procedures were followed by the media and were streamed live around the world.  Everyone was elated that the FHO and pelvis repair went smoothly and Chief Spotted Eye’s vitals remained strong.  Just one last X-ray to be sure the pins and plates were all correctly positioned and it was time to wake him up.

But with no warning he began to crash and nothing the vet team could do would revive him.  He was gone and the people who had all come to love him were stunned into silence.  How could that be?  Why did he die when it looked so promising that he would wake up, go back to being his bobcat self, and one day soon be running free?  Why? Why? Why?


From a medical perspective; sometimes that just happens.  Sedation for exotic cats is a very dangerous thing and sometimes they just don’t wake up.  If we look at the extent of his injuries we can all stand in wonder that he even survived Thanksgiving night six days ago, but that doesn’t make his passing any easier to accept.

From a spiritual perspective I believe that we all are One and that we summon each other into our lives to learn the lessons necessary to elevate all of us to a higher level of enlightenment and love.  I believe that I called Chief Spotted Eye into my life to remind me that life is fleeting, in this plane that we are experiencing now, anyway.  He was a reminder to do all the good I can, while I can.  I believe he called all of us into his short life to be reminded that even though some people are paving over the planet with our subdivisions, cities and cars, that others are doing something to insure harmony between our existence and that of the natural world.

If you were brought into this bobcat’s brief interaction with humanity I’d humbly suggest that you ask, “Why?”  What lesson did he teach you?


If He Survives, He’s Going to Need YOUR Help!

I was in a food coma after too much feasting with my family for Thanksgiving.  I had removed my contact lenses, was in my pajamas and getting hooked on the Netflix drama called Touch when the phone rang.  It was 7:47 PM.  Most of these calls involve someone on the other end who is in a total state of panic, talking incessantly, and hard to interrupt for important details like, who, when and where.  This man was calm, stated his name and said, “I’m calling to report a bobcat who has been hit by a car.”  He left a gap for me to ask, “Where?”

He gave me the exact address, “8302 Temple Terrace Highway, Temple Terrace, FL 33637 in the front of the church.”  Again, he left a gap for me to ask, “Can you text me a photo of the bobcat?”

Quietly he said, “Sure.” and then speaking to someone else said, “Can you get a good photo of it and text it to this number?”  He then repeated my phone number to the camera person as I gave it to him.  All the while, I have the phone on speaker and am quickly dressing, so that I’ll be ready to go as soon as I have confirmation that it is a bobcat.

chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

The photo comes across and I just stop everything, and ask, “Is he breathing?”  The photo is a bobcat, sprawled out on his side, looking quite dead.  Of course, there is always that nagging voice in my head saying this could be one of your cub abusing enemies who is just trying to lure you out into the darkness.  The cynic in me is saying, “and wouldn’t they just love to kill you on a holiday like Thanksgiving, just to make your family suffer.”  I push that voice to the back of my brain and keep dressing as the caller insists he can see the cat breathing.  Just barely, but breathing.

I can’t raise Jamie or Dr. Justin by text or phone, so I call Gale Ingham, our Operations Manager, who I know has spent her whole holiday working at the sanctuary, and say, “Hey, you wanna go on a bobcat call?”  I know she will say, “yes.”  She always says, “yes.”  She says, I’ll get dressed and meet you at the Tundra.  (It’s our nicest truck and one that we won in a Facebook contest a few years ago.)  She only lives a block from the sanctuary; I’m five miles away, so I’m happy that she’s game to get the truck loaded with a carrier, nets, flashlights, bug spray, blankets and water.  At this point, Gale hasn’t seen the photo, so she doesn’t know if we will be tramping around in some dark, mosquito infested swamp looking for a bobcat.

At the first traffic light where I’m stopped I text her the photo.  She responds back saying, “So, it’s dead?”  I text back “No” and press against the speed limit to get to the sanctuary.

Once we are out the front gate together, at 8:18 PM, heading toward the address that she’s plugged into Waze, I ask her to call the number on my phone to verify that the very dead looking bobcat is still breathing.  The man says he is, so again we are weaving through a ridiculous amount of holiday traffic, and going as fast as we legally can toward the site.  I keep thinking there should be some sort of flashing light and siren that animal rescuers should be allowed to use.

At about 8:30 PM Waze tells us the location is 700 feet ahead.  It’s pitch black on this unlit four lane highway, but in the silhouette of oncoming traffic, I can see there is a gaggle of cars and people standing off to the side.  There is no room for me to cross traffic and get off the road without running over someone, so I blow my horn and a car moves out of the way enough that I can maneuver the Tundra into the vacant spot.

Gale and I jump out.  She grabs a flashlight, gloves and a net.  I fumble around trying to carry the big carrier, a huge blanket, a net and gloves.  Gale’s disappeared into the dark ditch off the side of the road and I can hear her ordering everyone to back away, take their children and get back in their cars.  She says, “They can look dead, but the minute I touch him with my net, he could spring to life and really surprise you.”  She directs a man (maybe the original caller) to hold her flashlight on the bobcat.  By now I’ve managed to get the carrier onto the ground at the sidewalk and am started toward the two of them when Gale deftly swoops the net down over the prone bobcat.

sale chief spotted eye tee


Prophetically, the bobcat leaps into the air at her face, and she’s got only the length of the handle between her and the very angry, screaming mad, bobcat.  She seems to have a pretty good grip on her net, so I drag the carrier down the slope and position it right in front of her net.  Because of the side the door swings from, she’s not in a good position to scoop this howling mad cat in the door.  He’s not having it and there is a gap on my side.  I’m trying to block the gap with my net, but he slips out backward.

Now he’s sitting there, utter contempt in his eyes, and raises himself up to look as big as he possibly can.  Gale says, “He’s looking right at you!”  Yes, I see that.  He’s looking like in the next instant I’m going to be peeling him off my face.  “You’re so lucky.  I’d love to have your job.” rings through my head.  I hear that several times a day from people who think this would be great work.  It’s funny how you can have several, whole conversations in your head in the fraction of a second.  He uses that fraction to lunge toward my throat but my net seems guided by the hand of God as it pins him back down to the earth.

I’m on the other side of the carrier’s swinging door, so it’s possible for me to just lift the net neck up to the door.  This time the bobcat thinks the nice dark carrier might be a better option than Gale and I with nets, so he dashes in.  Hearts pounding we hold the door shut, disentangle the nets from the prongs that close the door, and he’s safely inside.  The noises he is making don’t sound like we will be able to hold the door shut long enough to get it latched, but he’s not throwing himself against the door.

I cover the carrier with a blanket and we wisk him up the slope to the truck.  I wait for a break in traffic before backing out onto the four lane highway.  Gale calls Dr. Justin, who has by now seen the original photo and asked if the cat was already dead.  She says he’s alive and we are on our way.  Our ETA is 15-20 minutes back to Big Cat Rescue.  He had been out shopping for his week end getaway to the Everglades, but says he will meet us there.  I suggest that Gale do a Facebook LIVE on the ride home.  We’ve never done that during a bobcat rescue before.  She does a great job, but comments at the end how exhausting it is to talk to the camera, get the story out there and answer questions, all at the same time.

As Gale and I carry the bobcat into Windsong Memorial Hospital I tell her the adrenaline must have been pumping through our veins earlier.  We had commented how light he was on the carry to the truck, but now he feels much heavier.  He gets weighed and turns out to be 18 lbs.  He was a healthy, two year old we guess.   We cover him up so he isn’t freaked out by the bright lights of the hospital, but I can hear his raspy breathing.  It’s almost a thumping sound when he breathes.  That doesn’t bode well for him.

chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

From 9 PM till about 11:30 PM Dr. Justin, Jamie, and Gale are doing diagnostics on this broken bobcat.  Some things are easy to fix.  Some will be extremely hard to fix, but none of those time consuming surgeries can be done until his breathing is normalized.

X-rays and a Sonogram show there is air escaping his lungs into his chest.  Dr. Justin is able to pull off some of that escaped air, so that there is less pressure against the lungs, but it’s what we don’t know that could kill the bobcat.
chief spotted eye bobcat rehabWe don’t know if that happened during impact with a car, and can stabilize now.  We don’t know if it’s coming from a punctured lung, or from a torn trachea.  Neither of those are things we can fix.  Add to that the fact that his body temperature was only 97, when it should be 101, and it looked like he was shutting down.

We can’t tell the condition of his internal organs, other than to see that they are still there in relatively the right shapes and places, because there is likely to be internal bleeding that is making the images looks sort of greyed out.  We can’t cut him open though because just the sedation for the external work we are doing is causing him not to be able to breathe on his own.

Jamie is using the anesthesia machine like an iron lung to keep him breathing during the exam.  15 seconds, breath, 15 seconds breath…  Dr. Justin stitches up the wounds and notes that one of them looks old.  Like a couple of days old.  Maybe the bobcat was hit a day or so ago and just now found?  If so, then maybe he does have a chance at recovering, if he’s managed to breathe this long on these crushed lungs.

chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

His X-rays show that if he survives the breathing challenges, then he has a lot of major surgery in his future.  His front, left forearm has snapped, right where the ball of the humerus meets the clavicle.  For a bone break, there just about isn’t a worse spot for that to happen.

cat skeleton bones

Dr. Justin describes to me an FHO and thinks he can devise a way to hold the bone in the socket until the bobcat’s own muscle creates a sock around the joint.  His pelvis is broken so severely on one side that, despite several X-rays, it’s just not clear what is left to work with there, but Dr. Justin thinks he can fix it with a plate.

chief spotted eye bobcat rehabAnd he’s got a broken canine tooth.

You might be wondering about the name, Chief Spotted Eye.  Gale rescued the bobcat so she gets to name him.  During her livecast people were suggesting names like Pumpkin, Pilgrim and Blessings because of the holiday and being found in a church yard.  The first thing the vets look at when a cat is sedated is their eyes, because they have to lube the eyes to keep them from drying out while the cat is sedated, so they look… then lube.  This bobcat has three unusual sunspots across the iris.  Thus Chief Spotted Eye is the combination of the Thanksgiving theme and his unusual eye.

chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

It’s after midnight and Chief Spotted Eye has been reversed twice, but he’s not waking up.  When the breathing tube was pulled, Dr. Justin was afraid the bobcat would just expire.  His concerns were heightened as the tube came out covered in blood from one end to the other.  This was not looking good and the bobcat was barely breathing now.  He was wrapped in a Bair Hugger, which is an warm air blanket.  We had done everything that could be done, so we set him up in the West Boensch Cat Hospital under a heating blanket, with a webcam on him, and prayed for the best.


chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

chief spotted eye bobcat rehab

This morning, at first light, I checked the webcam on my phone to see if Chief Spotted Eye was still breathing.  Much to my surprise he was even holding his head up and looking around a bit.  His breathing is still very shallow.  He’s on pain meds & antibiotics and all we can do is keep him warm, quiet, hydrated and medicated until his body has time to heal a bit.  We’ve done all we can do up until this point.

Give to Big Cat RescueNow it’s up to him and you.

If Chief Spotted Eye can get through the next few days and heal his lungs and throat from inside, then we can undertake the extensive and expensive surgeries necessary to return him to his rightful place in the wild.  Once he survives those surgeries, then we are talking months of rehabilitation so that he can regain his ability to run, jump, climb and hunt.  Will you help by funding our Bobcat Rehab program?




Thanksgiving Day 11/24/16 Date of Rescue

He ate 15 small chunks of beef today and pooped! Good to know that food can be processed. His breathing looks a little bit better.  If he continues healing this well, he could be in surgery as soon as Nov 29, 2016.

His LIVE webcams are at and but don’t be concerned if the cameras are down, as our Internet connection in there isn’t very good.  It can be hard to see them falling over and struggling so much and even harder to see them in such small confines, but he needs to be kept as still as possible while he heals.

Bobcats are used to traveling miles every day, so they really hate the confinement. The good news is that they usually heal quickly and it’s wonderful to see them being released back into the wild. You can see a lot of those success stories at


What Happens When You Find an Injured Bobcat?

The Story Before the Story

The Burgess family had just driven the dark narrow path to their home when they were told by relatives that there were some people with flashlights in the ditch nearby.  Since that seemed a strange thing to be doing on Thanksgiving, they headed over to see what was going on.  As they approached, they thought everyone was looking at an injured cat, and they weren’t too far off base, because it was a cat…of sorts.  It was a bobcat!

Jenna Burgess recounts, “The two people who had originally been there said they had seen it wander across the street and fall down into the ditch. We asked if they had called anyone, and they said that they had not, so immediately my father, Len Burgess, started calling any place we thought could help this animal. However, repeatedly, he was transferred over to different lines and rarely spoke to an actual person.”  Jenna said that her mother, Marilyn, remembered Jenna talking non stop about a place called Big Cat Rescue back when she had visited there in grade school.

In desperation they called Big Cat Rescue’s main line, (813 920 4130) which starts with a phone tree of all the different reasons people might call.  Press One for Tickets, Press Two for Gift Shop, Press 3… It’s a long way down to the number to press for an injured bobcat, because when all lines are busy people know someone will answer that line.  As the person who receives those incoming calls, I can attest to the fact that I get way too many calls each day about tours, tee shirts, and everything other than injured bobcat calls.  I guess they just don’t realize they could be costing a bobcat his life by tying up my line.  Thankfully Len Burgess is a patient man and was willing to listen to the spiel before selecting the correct number that rang through to my cell phone.

As stated in the story above, I always ask for photo verification that it really is a bobcat.  I love cats.  All animals, actually, but can’t rescue every one of them.   If it’s a bobcat, I’ll go, no matter when or where in the state.

chief spotted eye bobcat rehabJenna goes on to say, “My brother Troy immediately snapped a picture and sent it to the number so that they could be certain. This was a huge relief knowing that finally someone was taking this seriously and coming.”

“During the wait we could only hold our breath and hope that the bobcat could hold on. The longer the wait the more people arrived to see what exactly was going on.  After all, people in a ditch on the night of Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily the most normal sight on such a day.”

“Some of the bystanders got way too close to this poor creature; some within two feet and shining bright flashlights at him irritating him further. Most of the time we would try and calmly tell them to back away for their own good and for the good of the animal.”

Every now and then the bobcat would roll over letting out moans and shrieks that pierced the night air. Once or twice he got enough fight in him to pounce at some of the people standing by, while none of them got struck by his sharp claws it was still close and a wake up call to everyone that while this creature was injured, he was not helpless. Everyone went back further, mostly by their cars leaving the creature in the darkness and listening to his low growling as he writhed on the moist ground in pain.”

As I listen to Jenna’s telling of this story, I know that’s how it usually goes.  When we arrive on the scene there are people taking selfies and annoying the cat to make him move for their cameras.  I can’t even imagine how terrifying it must be for the bobcat who knows they are injured too badly to escape.  For those who really connect with the animal’s suffering, like the Burgess family, I know how difficult it is to take control of such a situation.  You have no police power, or “right” to tell others how to behave, for fear that they will act out even more aggressively, so the waiting for help to arrive makes minutes seem like hours.

You can hear the helplessness in Jenna’s voice as she reported, “Every few minutes I would go over, with a few others, to check on him and make sure he was still breathing. At that point no one knew what would happen. My brother and I assumed that he had massive amounts of internal bleeding, since he was coughing up such great amounts blood.”  She recounted the actual rescue by Gale and Carole as outlined above and then followed with:

“Once they drove off we knew we had done all we could and went home. (Carole texted them the link to the LIVE webcam in the hospital) That night we watched his surgery hoping that he would make it.  We watched for hours until the screen froze and our connection with him was lost. However thanks to one of the workers there we’ve been getting updates on him and his progress and are all anticipating his recovery will go well.”

– Jenna L. Burgess


Nov 28, 2016 Update Eating on His Own

Susann Mesna may not be a Keeper but she’s a keeper, for sure.  Thank you for this encouraging video of Chief Spotted Eye eating on his own today.  The vet is still considering Tuesday or Wednesday for his surgery.

Nov 30 2016 5:20 PM Chief Spotted Eye Has Died

Chief Spotted Eye did great through his surgery and was in the recovery cage to wake up when he began to crash. Despite heroic efforts to revive him he died. Our team is heartbroken that they could not save him and return him to his rightful place in the wild. Their night isn’t over though, as Hoover Tiger needs X-rays, a Sonogram and to be neutered tonight. I know it is going to be hard for them to stay upbeat after the tragedy they all just suffered.


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *