Approx date of birth 7/2021
Became a permanent resident: May 16, 2022-deemed non releasable by Dr. Boorstein and the FWC
Winter Bobcat was rescued 1/22/2022 in New Tampa after a caller reported a very skinny, disoriented, shaking, wobbling bobcat in their driveway. Watch her rescue video below. Then keep an eye on her progress via her LIVE web cam. Below that you will see some highlights captured by those who keep an eye on our rehab bobcats over night and through out the day. When she arrived she weighed only half of what would be healthy at a mere 6 lbs 4 oz.
Winter Bobcat Day Two 1/23/2022
Wobbly but hungry. Winter spent 12 hours in her crate, where we couldn’t see her so everyone was waiting breathlessly to see if she made it through the first night. The Florida Wildlife Commission’s vets and biologist have been alert to Winter’s condition. It looks very much like FLM and she may be the first cat to come in alive, and stay alive more than a few hours, with this disease. If that is what ails her, we may be able to isolate the cause and save the Florida Panther and Florida Bobcats from dying a horrible death of starvation due to this neurological impairment.
Feline leukomyelopathy (FLM), is a disorder which affects non-domestic cats. The disorder causes microscopic changes in the brain and spine, causing varying degrees of rear leg weakness and difficulty walking. The disorder was identified in panthers and bobcats in Florida in 2019.
Could Winter Be the Dayflower Houdini?
Email from Carole to FWC: “Jamie, Victor and I caught an FLM candidate near 9242 Dayflower Tampa, FL 33647 in Feb. 2021 which was thought by residents to be the same cat they saw wobbling in June of 2020. Even though we caught the Dayflower cat, and saw him/her in the coyote trap, they managed to break out. We’ve been back to the area on a call once since but never caught the cat again. The Garden Alcove cat we caught yesterday, Winter, was only 2 miles away. See map.”
Winter Bobcat Rescue Narrative
by Carole Baskin
May The Force be with you rang through my head. We had been called to New Tampa about a bobcat acting strangely about 40 minutes away. By the time we got there the bobcat was hunkered down in a tangle of jasmine, ferns and blackberry thorns that made about a 10 foot thick ring around a majestic palm tree. Jamie and Victor drove from their home and got there first. I brought Karma Hurworth and Michael Heap with me and the rescue van full of bobcat gear.
We circled the palm on our hands and knees and used the long end of our nets to lift up the thick tangle to try and catch a peek underneath. Michael saw movement and we heard the bobcat bark a warning at us, so we knew she was in there somewhere. There was just no way to flush her out though because she was perfectly safe as long as she was within about the 25-30 foot wide brush pile. It was too thick to crawl under to her, so I found the barest spot on top, climbed over the thicker outer wall of vines and sunk down next to the tree. My plan was to scare her out into their nets.
Her plan was to hold her ground against this one stupid interloper rather than face four people with nets and the three neighbors who were holding up a barrier we brought to keep her from fleeing into the adjacent swamp. Why is it always cold when I have to chase bobcats through murky, muddy swamps? Stay focused Carole. She’s about three feet from my face.
I wriggle my way back up to almost standing, where I can hold a hand up as high as I can to be seen above the jasmine and point to where she’s tucked in so everyone can gather around that part of the ring. Once I hear them move into place, I drop back down into the darkness. I can only make out the silhouette of her ears and can almost feel the spit in my face with each threatening hiss. I ask Michael to throw me a blanket I saw laying on a lawn chair so that if she does launch at me I have some way to secure her.
I can barely move. I’m on my knees, leaning impossibly forward toward her, and only suspended by the vines. The brush gets more dense and I can’t get any closer to her. Jamie asks if I can touch her with something, but there is nothing down here to use. Someone drops a snare pole down the hole I came in through and with a tremendous amount of struggle I am able to get it turned around and facing her with the looped end. There is just no room to maneuver in here! Touching her with the open end just made her madder and more determined to fight me and the pole. Running from us didn’t seem to be an option in her mind. God, I love bobcats!
It was probably only seconds, but it felt like a long time before I got the nerve up to slip the noose over her ears and start drawing it tighter. I couldn’t see her, other than her ears, so I didn’t know if I had the slip knot around her throat, or maybe (hopefully) a front leg as she was swinging at me. In 44 years of catching bobcats I’ve never use a snare pole. I hate them. I am so fearful of the cat strangling or breaking his neck in the wild thrashing that is sure to ensue. This was the only option in this situation and now I had to close the loop tight enough to hold a cat I could barely see without killing her. May The Force be with you rang in my head.
I pulled until it felt right to stop but there was no tension on the line that gave me a clue. It was only The Force. Jamie said to push the pole out toward them because they couldn’t get a net, or even gloved hands into the thick vines until the bobcat could be pushed out, clear of them. The bobcat rolled onto her back, screaming at me and I took that as a good sign that she was getting enough oxygen, so I started pushing the pole out toward Jamie.
I couldn’t see what was happening, but when it sounded like they had her within the grasp of their nets and gloves, I wriggled backwards to find my iPhone which had been scraped from my pocket a while back. Shaking, I opened the camera app, clawed my way back to the surface and held the phone over my head and pointed in the direction of the commotion to try and capture the transfer of the bobcat into the waiting carrier. Once she was in, Victor released the snare (something I wasn’t sure any of us even knew how to do) and they closed the door on the very, very angry, scared bobcat. I thanked God, the angels, The Force and every other variation for having guided my hands and those of our Big Cat Rescuers. I knew it wasn’t my skill and thus not my glory.
I think this is the same bobcat we have been trying to catch since June 2020. Above was the first video we got of a bobcat who appeared to either be suffering from a broken pelvis, or some neurological disease. *FLM had first been noted in Florida panthers in 2019 but I don’t think any bobcat or FL panther had been caught alive with it, or lived more than a few hours after capture. We didn’t catch her in 2020 but in Feb. 2021 we were called to the same location and did trap her. She was strong enough in the front end to bust the door off our coyote trap and got away. This bobcat was just 2.2 miles away and people in both communities had noted that everyone knew her, as she wasn’t terribly shy and was a good neighbor. ie: not a pet killer.
I’ve been watching her on the Bobcat Hospital remote cameras. She came in at a mere 6 lbs, 4 oz which is less than half of the 15-20 lbs she should weigh given her frame. She’s eating like there’s no tomorrow and sleeps for 12+ hours at a time. Watching her walk, fall over, collapse and then try again, makes me wonder how she lived this long. People must have been feeding her. I weep at her suffering. I’m overjoyed that she’s here and hopefully we can figure out what is causing FLM and how to cure it.
*Feline leukomyelopathy (FLM), is a disorder which affects non-domestic cats. The disorder causes microscopic changes in the brain and spine, causing varying degrees of rear leg weakness and difficulty walking. The disorder was identified in panthers and bobcats in Florida in 2019.
We’ve been coordinating with the our vet, Dr. Boorstein and the FWC to do a spinal tap and other diagnostics on her as soon as she is stabilized.
Winter Bobcat sees the vet 01 27 2022
Its a GIRL! It was determined Winter is a female bobcat during her exam today. She has gained a pound since her rescue and weighs in at 7.8 pounds. She had blood work drawn, a spinal tap done by the FWC vet who attended, X-rays done and an overall exam.
So far her blood work is insignificant, we are still waiting on results.
FIV and FelV negative.
The Xray machine malfunctioned and was not producing full images but from what we saw nothing was abnormal.
She was flea treated and vaccinated for rabies and with FVRCP.
She will continue antibiotics and steroids.
Spinal tap was sent out with the FWC.
We will keep you updated as we know more.
February 10, 2022 UPDATE WINTER MOVES OUTSIDE
We moved Winter Bobcat to Run #4 outside so that we can see better how she is walking. She tries so hard to escape and climbs the walls inside, so at least when she falls outside, the landing will be softer. These are her LIVE Nest webcams. They aren’t very reliable due to our access to power and Internet there, so let us know if the cameras go down in the comments.
Run 4 Small Right
Run 4 Small Left
Run 4 Small Right Lower
We may never have answers from Winter’s spinal fluid results. She is the first LIVE animal with suspected FLM they have taken spinal fluid samples from so there is no data to compare them with. Nevertheless, having that data on Winter will now allow the FWC to have at least one live animal lab results in a data base to use in comparison when the next cat with this suspected disease is caught and labs taken from it.
Winter is on antibiotics and Prednisone. She is still wobbly in the back end, is eating ok and is being monitored. She is on strict quarantine since we do not know what exactly is wrong with her.
From Jamie: Isn’t Winter beautiful? We are really hoping that medications will help her overcome whatever ailment is inflicting her. We have noticed a slight decrease in her head bobbing but she is still pretty wobbly in the back legs. We have not received any results from the spinal fluid sample. So right now we are just taking it day by day.
May 16, 2022 UPDATE by Jamie Veronica:
Winter has been determined to not be a candidate for release. Winter came to us in January of this year. She was extremely emaciated and had severe ataxia (wobbly when walking). Her symptoms appear to fit that of the neurological disorder afflicting Florida’s wildcats, Feline Leukomyelopothy or FLM. She has been under constant observation and treatment since her arrival and while she is now a healthy weight her ataxia persists. It is unknown how long a wildcat can live with this disorder as long as they are provided with food, water and shelter. Winter’s progress has become a valuable source of information in studying FLM. We are in constant contact with the FWC regarding updates on her health. She has undergone a spinal tap in the past in hopes of getting answers, yet results have not come as of yet. Testing for FLM is done by examining the spinal cord postmortem during necropsy. We may be sedating her again this week to do some more bloodwork. Winter will be kept comfortable and observed closely by rehabbers. She will remain a permanent resident due to her possibility of having FLM and will most likely remain in Rehab Enclosure 4 indefinitely.
May 18, 2022
Winter bobcat has a followup exam with Dr. Justin Boorstein and Dr. Hollis from the FWC.
Note from Jamie:
Winter has a follow up exam with Dr Justin and Dr H. New bloodwork was collected, a spinal tap was performed to collect spinal fluid for analysis and nasal and ocular swabs were collected for testing. We still believe that Winter has FLM, Feline Leukomyelopothy which is a mysterious neurological disorder afflicting Florida’s wildcats. We hope that these new samples will provide continued insight into her health and the progression of the disorder. During her exam we discovered significant laxity in her knees and her quadriceps were quite thickened and ridged. Meanwhile Winter has been weaned off of the steroids she has been on long term. We will continue to monitor her closely for changes. She does have some mobility issues in her rear legs, this ataxia originally responded to steoids and improved but over time she reverted back. We are now going to see if she continues to get worse off the steroids or maintains her current status. As always the cats come first and should Winter continue to decline we will help end her suffering. Until then we will continue to document her condition and progression in hopes to save furs wildcats. Winter is the longest lived bobcat in captivity with FLM. She has been with us since January. To my understanding their was only one other bobcat captured alive with FLM and it survived just a week.
May 22, 2022
July 6, 2022
We are going to try one last ditch effort with Winter to make her more comfortable and hopefully improve her stability. If these meds do not make an improvement in her quality of life the vet team will be discussing euthanasia. If she improves we will be keeping her on meds indefinitely.
Wild bobcats come to Big Cat Rescue for two reasons:
Injuries such as having been hit by cars or disease, illness, birth defects.
Kittens that have been separated from their mothers or orphaned and are too young to survive in the wild.
Upon arrival, the cats receive a full exam and given whatever medical care is needed for their injuries or illness. Blood is drawn and tested for infectious diseases. They are vaccinated, dewormed, and flea treated.
Injured cats are given the time and supportive care they need to heal. They must prove they can hunt and survive before being released. Our six rehab pens are 230 feet long by 20 feet wide giving the cats 4600 square feet of natural space to learn their skills.
When possible kittens are given a domestic surrogate mother. When a surrogate is not available the kittens are bottle fed but weaned from the bottle as soon as possible.
They are then raised with as little human contact as possible and given opportunities to learn to hunt.
Rehabbing and releasing bobcats is much more difficult than the rehabilitation of most wildlife. These magnificent little wildcats need every opportunity to fulfill their role in nature and Big Cat Rescue is here to give them that second chance.
While we do bobcat rescue, rehab and release in Florida, we will not relocate bobcats as state law requires that they are released very near where they were captured. They must be released on at least 40 acres and we must get written permission from the owner/manager of the property.
Big Cat Rescue has decades of experience rehabbing and releasing bobcats back to the wild where they belong. We provide huge, naturalistic enclosures where these cats can learn or perfect their hunting skills before being released back to the wild. We have trained staff who are experts at capturing an injured bobcat or hand-rearing orphaned bobcats until a surrogate can be found.
We go to great lengths to keep these wild cats from imprinting on humans and monitor their care via surveillance cameras to make sure they are thriving. When they are healed, or old enough for release (about 18 months of age) we find the best habitat possible for sustaining them and set them free to live out the life that nature intended.
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