Baby Bobcat Hope's Story in the News
Nursing mom gives hope to rescued baby bobcat from Keystone
on June 30 2008
By Debbie Carson, Staff Writer
Watch bobcat baby Hope as she earns her place in her new domestic cat family in a video posted HERE.
KEYSTONE A baby bobcat, aptly named Hope, has been given new hope after two rescue groups arranged for a nursing mother cat and her kittens to adopt her into their family.
Big Cat Rescue took in Hope in early May after a couple teens found her near Lutz-Lake Fern Road at Gunn Highway. Hope was a mere two weeks old, separated from her mother, and wouldn't take to nursing from a bottle.
When the call went out to area cat rescue groups that an abandoned baby bobcat was in need of a nursing mama cat, St. Francis Society Animal Rescue and Meadow Pointe's Cat Call answered.
Jack Talman, a volunteer with Cat Call, had just such a mother cat and two of her kittens at his Davis Island home, where he was fostering them. He had received a call from Kathy Walvoord from the St. Francis group asking about the possibility of Mother going to Big Cat Rescue to hopefully adopt the baby bobcat.
But would Mother accept the baby?
"That was a pretty big challenge," said Jamie Veronica, president of Big Cat Rescue and Hope's sole-caregiver.
The rescue group intends on releasing Hope back into her natural environment with as little human interaction as possible. To that end, they had to find a lactating cat that was still nursing and hope that she would accept Hope as another member of her family.
Kathy drove Mother about two hours from Jack's home north to Big Cat. After that, Mother was in Jamie's hands and the fate of Hope rested in Mother's paws.
It was a tense introduction, according to Jamie's narration of a video of Hope and Mother meeting for the first time.
"The mom was kind of apprehensive," Jamie later told The News/Community News.
Despite Jamie's efforts to rub Mother's scent on Hope prior to the introduction, Mother was not happy. She hissed and swatted at Hope; at one time knocking Hope over.
There had to be another way. Jamie contacted Kathy and Jack to find out if Mother's kittens could be sent over. Perhaps if Hope were introduced to the kittens first, Mother would have fewer complaints.
"That ended up working well," Jamie said. It didn't take long and Hope was nursing from Mother, right alongside her new brother and sister, Maxwell and Indy, respectively.
The new family has spent the last couple months at the West Boensch Cat Hospital; a facility at Big Cat.
Jamie and the crew applied a one-way film to the doors of the large room the family stays in so that they could observe the felines without the cats knowing.
"They're the perfect family," Jamie said. "They get along."
For weeks, Hope and her siblings continued to nurse from Mother, until they were finally weaned. Hope spent one week on ground turkey and has since graduated to whole prey.
Hope eats 10 mice a day, and every once in a while, she gets a baby chicken to sink her teeth into.
Jamie still keeps her distance with Hope, and is also doing her best to ignore the domestic cats.
"It's kind of weird," she said. She first thought that the domestics would become a bit more wild what without the attention they're used to and perhaps Hope's wild influence. But they seem normal.
Hope, on the other hand, is just as wild as a bobcat kitten is expected to be.
"I do not exist to her," Jamie said.
The mixed family will continue living together for the next couple weeks, and after that, Hope will be on her own.
"She's getting to the point where she's playing rough," Jamie said, adding that Hope will become too big for her siblings.
Hope might miss the company for a little bit but bobcats are solitary creatures and prefer their solitude, according to Jamie.
Besides, Hope will have to learn how to live on her own before she's released in April next year.
Jamie said that the current plan is to release Hope at the J.B. Starkey Ranch in Pasco County. The ranch backs up to a massive conservation area that is more than capable of supporting bobcats.
To teach Hope how to fend for herself, the crew at Big Cat will begin to feed her live rats but she won't know that she's being fed. The crew will place a rat in a series of tubes that leads to any one of a number of entrances inside Hope's rehabilitation enclosure in Big Cat's compound far away from humans and the other cats.
When the rat pops out of the tube and where it will show up are completely random, training Hope to always be on the lookout for prey. The rats have been known to use the tube system as a way of delaying the inevitable, according to Jamie, which will make Hope have to work all the harder to earn her meal.
Jamie has been chronicling Hope's trials and tribulations on video, which have been posted to Big Cat's Web site, www.BigCatRescue.org.
So far, there are seven videos posted, and more are expected to follow.
Once Hope moves to the rehab enclosure on a permanent basis, the videos will come from mounted cameras to further limit human contact, according to Jamie.
Hope will be the third bobcat Big Cat has released in recent years. In 2005, the group released Faith, who had been orphaned. In April this year, the group rehabilitated and released Chance, a male bobcat who had been injured and lost an eye.
Bobcats are the only type of animal that Big Cat rehabilitates for release back into the wild. Despite numerous calls from people in the community, Big Cat does not take in raccoons, opossums or any other animal for rehabilitation.
Jamie said that the biggest threat to bobcats in the area is the explosion of growth. She said that Big Cat gets numerous e-mails and phone calls from people asking the group to come out and remove bobcats they see on their property or in the conservation lot behind them.
"Bobcats are a good thing to have around," Jamie said. They eat mostly rats and other small rodents, and they don't pose much of a threat to humans.
"If you leave them alone, they'll pretty much leave you alone," she said.
For more information about baby Hope, to watch the videos, or learn more about Big Cat Rescue, visit the group's Web site at www.BigCatRescue.org.
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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