What is it about Christmas and Bobcats?
First thing this morning Gale texts me to say there is a dead bobcat in the middle of the road at Gunn Highway and Sheldon. I texted Kathryn to ask if she can have someone closer run out to make sure the cat isn’t suffering and by the time Gale texts back that there is no doubt the cat is dead, Kathryn has already heard from Rebecca that she stopped to pull the cat out of the road but had no way to bring him to the sanctuary. Kathryn sends Megan to retrieve the body and we will compare him to our photos of previously released rehab bobcats before having him cremated. He will have dignity in death.
We are all upset at the thought of losing yet one more precious bobcat and it comes the day after hearing about a bobcat who was hit by a car at an airport in Sanford. The bobcat reportedly had a broken leg and was holed up in the grille of a car for three days before being removed by an animal trapper. The news reports say that authorities sent the cat to a rehab center, but no one is saying where. We know there is no place other than Big Cat Rescue that is properly equipped for bobcat rehab so as soon as the place who has him has exhausted their ability to fundraise off him, they will probably call us to take the cat for the hard rehab work, if they care at all about getting the cat back out to the wild. So many places just love to get “failed” rehab animals to fill their cages of their pathetic back yard zoos. The whole thing makes me sad.
While I’m wallowing in pity for the cats who have lost their freedom and lives, I start wondering what it is about Christmas and bobcats? Is there some ancient curse on their clan? I pull out the sheet used for tracking bobcat calls we get and the earliest entry is 12/25/94 and a cat we named Goetz. I’d done a lot of bobcat rehab and release since I was 17 but didn’t have digital records prior to when I was 31 years old in 1994.
My brother was a deputy with the Sheriff’s department and called me in the middle of the night on Christmas saying a bobcat had been hit by a car at Sheldon Road near Meadowview Circle. When we arrived on the scene there were half a dozen patrol cars, lights flashing, and all of the officers were in a wide circle around the bobcat with flashlights on her. We crept up on either side of her with nets, using a tactic that cats often use when they hunt together. One is the “danger” who comes toward the face, while the other is actually the one to do the capturing. The one from behind has to be so stealthy that the animal being caught never knows what got them.
The bobcat was sitting up, as best she could; pulled up to her highest on her front legs. She was trying to keep this circle of cops at bay with her low, snarling threats. If you’ve never heard a mad bobcat, I really can’t explain just how terrifying that sound is. As I moved into position to take her full attention, I didn’t know the extent of her injuries. If she was able, she’d launch herself to my throat and take out my trachea, to save herself. She sprang with what she had and let out a blood curdling scream of obscenities at me. I would have laughed at all those big guys, with guns drawn, running out into the night, screaming in fear, if not for the mission at hand, which was to get a net down over her without causing her further injury.
Her pelvis turned out to have been crushed, so her spring wasn’t much and both nets came down over her in an instant. We called for the pet carrier to be brought over and one of the police officers had the courage to bring it close enough that we were able to get her in it. I’d like to think that was my brother, but really don’t recall. I remember early days of rehab with Goetz, where we would take the top off the carrier and feed her strips of meat from long tongs. The entire time she’d be hurling threats at us and take an occasional swipe at us but somehow we all got through it in time. Sadly, her injuries were so severe that she could never run again and she ended up living with us her entire life.
The next Christmas bobcat was hit by a car at Dale Mabry Highway and Lutz Lake Fern Road on 12/26/2009. The FWC called us, in the middle of the night, and we raced to the scene to recover her and bring her to the sanctuary for rehab. I don’t remember much about her, except that we named her Christmas and that she died from her injuries 9 days later. No amount of veterinary intervention or prayer was able to save her and that sadness and concern that started after Christmas overshadowed the sanctuary through the new year.
The next Christmas bobcat was Skip who was discovered on 12/28/2010. A woman from Mt Plymouth / Sorrento had called to say they had found a bobcat alongside the highway and had it loose in their SUV and wanted to know what to do next because it was getting pretty mad. Obviously this was their first bobcat rescue, because no one makes that mistake twice. I called the woman who said her name was Nici and she said that the bobcat laying alongside the road had caught her eye. Her husband, Skip had chased him down with a blanket, scooped him up and put him in the back of the car. He was dragging his back end, so the chase wasn’t much of a challenge, but picking up a VERY mad bobcat made him a fury of claws and teeth.
Nici said they were two blocks from their home and that they could just leave him in the car for us to deal with, if we wanted. As I frantically brought up a map to see that she was 2 and a half hours away, I didn’t think that was a great idea. I asked if she had a pet carrier that they could just plop the blanketed cat into before he fully regained his senses. She didn’t but her friend Lorie did. Turns out that all three of them had visited Big Cat Rescue in the past and were eager to do anything they could to help save this skinny, crushed little bobcat. My instructions had been to completely envelope the cat in thick blanketing and take the top off the carrier, if necessary, to accommodate the entire bundle, and then bolt the top back on. I don’t know why that didn’t work for them, but I called Nici back a few minutes later, after starting Jamie on her way to Mt. Plymouth, and Nici said, “I hope you guys will name this bobcat Skip, after my husband because he is so brave!”
Slashing teeth and claws be danged, Skip had managed to get a grip on the bobcat’s scruff and lifted him into the carrier. Even though Lorie had brought over a German Shepherd sized crate the bobcat managed to go spread eagle over the entire door making it a real effort to push him into the pile of blankets in the carrier. Kind of like baptizing a cat in a cereal bowl.
They covered him up and waited with him while I called every vet I could find between there and Tampa. My concern was that the cat would go into shock before we could get him to a vet here, so I just needed someone to do a preliminary check and stabilize him. By the time I had called a dozen vets and a couple of rehabbers two hours had passed and Jamie was nearly there.
Our old van is a 1998 and has seen better days. It was shuddering so badly that Jamie Veronica had taken it into a station to check the tires but they were OK and the shudder happened even when sitting still. I’m no mechanic, but sounded like a rod knocking to me and I was sweating whether or not the van would even make it to the Mt. Dora area, NW of Orlando.
Once I gave up on finding a vet near the bobcat, or even on the way home, who would give him the courtesy of even the most basic care, which I assured them I would pay in advance if necessary, I began to try and sort out what to do when he arrived in Tampa.
If Jamie didn’t break down, she and the bobcat should be back in town around 6 pm. Our primary vet, Dr. Wynn had a previous engagement hosting a dozen people at 6pm. I asked if I should contact Florida Veterinary Specialist or our secondary vet, Dr. Dave Murphy. Dr. Wynn said she would call her clinic and see if Dr. Dave Danielson might be willing to look at the bobcat. He had worked with native bobcats before, that we’d brought in, and was willing to help.
Jamie said she would need me to bring the squeeze cage to the vet’s office. How we were going to get the bobcat out of the carrier and into the squeeze cage was yet to be determined, but getting it there was the first step.
I ordered pizzas for pick up because I knew Jamie hadn’t eaten since this morning and didn’t know if the vet and his staff would be skipping dinner to fit this bobcat, now named Skip, into their already hectic evening schedule. Jamie already had Skip inside and he was well on his way to a long, deep sleep by the time I arrived. She said they had tipped the crate up on end and hand injected him through the grated door. Within only a couple of minutes he was sleeping…or so we thought.
On the x-ray table he began blinking and trying to sit up, so he got a little more ketamine and went back to sleep. The first x-ray showed the crushed pelvis and Dr. Danielson asked if we wanted to go any further as this was going to be a lot of major surgery with limited hope of recovery. I told him we had spent more than $7500 on the last bobcat who needed plates, so we were willing to spend the money as long as the cat didn’t have any cat-killer diseases that would make him unfit for release. The blood tests were done and he had a clean bill of health so the only other obstacle, which was determined later during a sonogram was that he has internal bleeding and his spleen may be beyond recovery. Only a couple days of quiet rest and careful observation will let us know if he is going to live long enough to have the work done.
We did have the work done, by Dr. Callum Hay, who was an expert in this kind of work, but the pelvic canal healed too narrowly for Skip to be able to eat fur, feathers or bone, so he lived with us on a soft food diet the rest of his life.
The next Christmas bobcat was dead on arrival on 12/21/2015 on Livingston Road near the overpass. Our fears were that it would be Bellona, the bionic bobcat, who we had released just five blocks away on 1000 acres, a few years back, but this female bobcat did not have any of the pins and plates that were still inside Bellona.
You might remember the next Christmas bobcat because Noel grew up on LIVE web cams after being rescued by Christin Burford in Apopka, FL on 12/26/17. An injured bobcat was left on the side of the road for dead on Christmas until a wonderful family stepped in to help her. Noel had two broken legs repaired by our vet in hopes to give her a second chance.
She was named Noel by the concerned viewers who watched her arrival at the sanctuary hospital and her medical exam.
On Christmas Day, around 3:00 pm a family saw an injured bobcat by the highway. They called the police and were told they would take care of it. However, when the concerned family went back out about 9:00 pm to check, sadly, the poor injured bobcat was still there waiting for help to arrive.
Unwilling to forsake this precious injured cat, the good Samaritans were wise enough to call Christin Burford, who went out and captured the injured bobcat. The poor cat was too injured to stand or walk but tried to scrabble away before collapsing.
The morning after Christmas was spent with Christin trying to find someone to help this poor injured wild bobcat. After calling every rehabber she could think of, and being told they did not have space, she called Big Cat Rescue. Of course, we came right away and all of Noel’s rehab and release has been captured in photos, videos and live web cams here: https://bigcatrescue.org/noel/
So on this day after Christmas in 2018 I am sad that another couple of bobcats have fallen victim to this fateful time of the year, but I am even more thankful for everyone who has made it possible for us to rescue, rehab and release those we can. It seems like a fitting time to announce the new Bobcat Rehab Course we have recently published online. Our hopes are that we can get this life saving information into the hands of rehabbers, state authorities, veterinarians and others who may one day be the difference between life and death for a bobcat. It’s free and will only take a couple hours of your time: https://www.zoocollege.com/course/bobcat/