Does Big Cat Rescue Microchip?
Yes, and no. At Big Cat Rescue we microchip all of our permanent residents, but we do not microchip bobcats who are released after being rehabbed.
Cats Who Live at Big Cat Rescue
We have always microchipped our permanent residents for a few reasons:
We believe that anyone housing wild cats should microchip them and provide records to authorities of the cat's chip ID#, and other information, such as photos, identifying marks, etc., so that they know the cat is who we say they are. We have recommended, at every opportunity when new laws or regulations are considered, that it be mandated that exotic cats be microchipped and those numbers be part of a publicly accessed database. If all cubs were marked this way, and the breeders were held accountable for births, deaths and dispositions, it would end the cub handling trade where hundreds of cubs disappear each year.
Setting a good example
If we are going to suggest that everyone else be responsible and provide accurate tracking information on their wildcats, then we need to set the example, even though there is no requirement to do so. It has always been an expense and a bit of work to microchip our cats, but we do it anyway.
In case of theft
When Pharaoh, Kongo & Tonga the servals were young, we were offered $75,000 each for them because their coloring (white) was so rare. We neutered them, but microchipping provided one extra layer of protection against them being stolen. As the black market increases, due to the stimulation in demand caused by cubs who are discarded from cub petting schemes, there is an added potential that our cats might be stolen, killed and sold for their parts. A microchip may help lead the police to those involved if it was known where the cat originated and when it disappeared.
In case of an escape
If a big cat were to escape and be recaptured, it's possible that the person finding the cat would scan them for a microchip and return them to us.
Bobcats Who Are Rehabbed and Released
Microchip scanning distance
Most people who ask the question of whether we microchip our cats are mistaking two technologies. A microchip is about the size of a grain of rice and the wand that is used to scan the chip must be held just inches from the cat in order to detect and read the number. A tracking collar holds a transmitter that is far too big to insert under the skin of a cat, and can be read from a further distance. While tracking collars are now designed to break away after the battery dies a few months out, we do not collar the bobcats we release because the risk of the cat hanging themselves in it is greater than any information we would glean from knowing where the cat goes.
Who would even look?
If a bobcat were found dead, just about no one would even think to scan them for a microchip. It's just not commonly done and other than Big Cat Rescue, I don't know of anyone who goes around picking up dead bobcats and giving them a dignified burial. It would be interesting to us to know if a bobcat we released was recovered later; to know how much more freedom our efforts gave them, but that's really not crucial information. We will work to save every bobcat we can for whatever more time we can give them their freedom.
Negative impact on rehab work
Some people don't like the fact that we rescue, rehab and release bobcats. People who like to shoot turkeys, or rabbits hate having any competition for the prey animals they want to hunt. If they were able to track a microchipped bobcat back to us, they might use it to blame the bobcat for being somewhere they shouldn't, in order to lobby for laws to prevent wildlife rehabbers from saving wild animals. Those who kill for sport will take every opportunity to find ways to remove any positive discussion about rescuing or saving wildlife.