Humane Society houses former "pet" bobcat, other wildfire refugees

By Emanuel Parker Staff Writer

PASADENA, CA – A turkey vulture, a bobcat and a red-tailed hawk, refugees from the Pines Fire burning above La Cañada Flintridge, are being given temporary shelter at the Pasadena Humane Society.

The vulture, which has one wing, is by far the most outgoing of the trio, hopping around its cage. The bobcat hides in its shelter, coming out infrequently to stare wistfully at a nearby flock of noisy, captive birds. The hawk is kept indoors in a towel-covered cage.

Steve McNall, PHS executive director, said turkey vultures are common locally, although you may not notice them circling high overhead.

“They’re native to the area,” he said. “They’re all over the place. You see them a lot in the Irwindale \ Dam area.”

The birds, he said, have an interesting way of defending themselves: “They don’t have retractable talons, so when you confront them they spit on you,” he said.

“They eat carrion, so when they regurgitate all this dead stuff comes up. And whatever has grabbed them usually turns them loose.”

Even with one wing, the bird has a wing-span close to five feet. Its head is devoid of feathers so the bird can insert it into a carcass without getting fouled, McNall said.

“It’s so ugly it’s cute,” said Veronica Fincher, a PHS wildlife officer.

The bobcat is a female named Gabby. It was raised by a family until it became too aggressive to handle. But it had become too comfortable around humans, and couldn’t be released back into the wild, Fincher said.

“There are a lot of bobcats in the foothills,” she said. “They’re native to California. They hunt at night and eat mice, squirrels, rabbits and roadkill if they’re really hungry. Because they’re active at night, most people don’t know they’re around.”

Fincher didn’t know much about the hawk, except that it has a wing injury that would make survival on its own exceedingly difficult.

The vulture and hawk dine on raptor mix, mostly raw meat, while the bobcat gets hamburger.

The trio will be returned Monday to Clear Creek school and outdoor education center in the Angeles National Forest. The school serves the children of U.S. Forest Service personnel and has permits to keep the animals.

On Wednesday the school was threatened by the Pines Fire, Fincher said. The fire was contained on Friday.

A PHS officer was patrolling the area and managed to get to the school, which was wrapped in smoke, and evacuate the animals, which were suffering from smoke inhalation.

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