Bobcat Killed by “Kindness”
A Story That Breaks My Heart
On Dec 27, 2013 I got a call from Scott C. He said he had been camping with his family, including a five year old daughter, at the Saint Sebastian River Preserve State Park at 1000 Buffer Preserve Dr in Fellsmere, FL and had been approached by a young, starving, female bobcat kitten. I asked him to send photos and he sent these. It would be a three hour drive for me to go see if I could find her, so I immediately contacted Sherrie Wentworth of www.eastcoastwildliferehab.com and asked if she knew anything about the bobcat and if she would go assess the cat’s condition and check with park staff to see if they knew her history.
It was apparent, from Scott’s report, that she was either a poorly rehabbed bobcat kitten who had imprinted on humans or perhaps she had grown up in the park with people offering her handouts from an early age. In either case, most people know that bobcats don’t just walk up to you in the woods and if they do it’s probably because they are rabid, protecting offspring or mentally challenged. Scott reported the strange incident to the park staff, but wasn’t sure they would know what to do, so he called Big Cat Rescue.
Sherrie has had more than 20 years experience in wildlife rehab and was happy to go see what she could do, but a few hours later Sherrie reported that “Fish & Wildlife got there first and killed her on the spot!”
As shocking as that may sound to you and I, it has been our experience, in 20+ years of rehab, that the wildlife agencies you think are protecting our beautiful wild cats are usually just a bunch of hunters who see the cats as competition for the kinds of animals they want to shoot for sport. I know from experience that when I and others have called the Florida Wildlife Commission to ask them what should be done about injured bobcats, or bobcats who have gotten into trouble with humans, their standard answers is, “Just kill it.”
Up until recently it was considered “good family sport” in Florida to turn bobcats, foxes, and / or coyotes loose in a fenced area and then turn out hunting dogs to rip them to shreds under the innocuous term of “fox penning.”
This abhorrent practice was known to occur at 16 facilities in Florida but was banned in 2010 after wild life lovers outnumbered wild life abusers for the first time in the history of Florida Wildlife Commission public hearings. Big Cat Rescue had been a leader in getting bobcat lovers to attend and speak up for the wild animals who were being used as bait.
The blame for this bobcat kitten being gunned down is not entirely that of the Florida Wildlife Commission, in my opinion though. Equally to blame are those who habituated her to humans. Whether it was someone who tried to rehab an orphaned bobcat kitten and failed, or if it was the public feeding this undeniably adorable bobcat kitten, the fact of the matter is that those acts of “kindness” ultimately led to her untimely death.
Please don’t feed wild carnivores! It almost always ends badly for them.
Big Cat Rescue goes to extraordinary lengths to insure that our rehabbed orphans do not imprint on people and know how to catch their own food.
FWC continues panther relocation efforts
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will redeploy traps as it continues efforts to capture a panther that has been sighted sporadically in an area of Golden Gates Estates west of Collier Boulevard (CR 951) in Collier County.
The FWC panther team, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been closely monitoring this area since late November, as part of an ongoing effort to relocate this panther to a more suitable, less urban habitat. Panther biologists have followed up on people’s reports of the panther with site visits and deployed game cameras to identify the panther’s travel routes. There has been an increase of FWC law enforcement patrols in the area, and the brochure, A guide to living with Florida panthers, has been distributed to area residents with the help of Defenders of Wildlife.
“Panthers are sometimes seen in urban areas, but these cats generally move on to more appropriate habitat,” said Kipp Frohlich, deputy director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “The FWC is assessing and acting on the best steps to protect the public, as well the best actions to ensure this panther can be safely relocated.”
The FWC is asking for the public’s help in reporting sightings of a panther in this area. People who have seen a panther, its tracks or other evidence of panther activity can call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
If you see a panther, remember to give panthers space. Florida panthers typically avoid confrontation. Make sure they have a way to escape. For more on Florida panthers, including a guide to living with Florida panthers, go to MyFWC.com/Panther and click on the “Living with Panthers” PDF.