Bobcats Returned to the Wild

This year three bobcats were placed with a volunteer who specializes in predators – coyotes and bobcats.  The day to day care for many months paid off, and she was ready to release three very healthy, perfect bobcats.

I enter the story at this point.  I received a phone call several weeks ago, telling me she needed a large, remote bobcat friendly environment to release these gorgeous cats. I knew the perfect location! It was 7,500 acres of timber, meadows and prairie bordered by a river. We agreed on a date to "catch" these guys and to transport them. I was so honored and excited to have this privilege. I even took my 17 year old son out of school for the day to come along and help. He is still thanking me and talking about that experience.)

We arrived around 10 am, and after some discussion of how we would accomplish getting these cats into the animal carriers with as little stress and danger to the cats and ourselves as possible, we ultimately decided on a mild tranquilizer injected into some raw meat.  I think we we're all in agreement that we wanted these cats as calm as possible for their 1 1/2 hour drive, (especially me the driver).

The rehabber entered the pen, carrying a big stick, 2 carriers and 2 pieces of meat, all the while mindful of where the cats were in the pen and negotiating the ice that was everywhere. 

Once the carriers were in place, she was able to bait one with meat and the large male went right in.  I guess hunger prevailed over good sense and he was safely locked inside. Next it was his sister’s turn.  She was not so easily convinced. We eventually left her alone with Michael Sandy, another volunteer, who was there to help.  The rest of us, including my son, decided to try to capture the other young male in a separate pen.

Once again, the surrogate mom bravely entered the "lions den" so to speak and placed herself strategically behind the carrier and in front of the cat.  He would enter the crate, and then when she would reach forward to close the door, she would slip on the ice, the door would bounce off his backside and he would once again be on the ceiling of his cage! It took several attempts, but success at last!  Eventually the embattled rehabber carried her prize outside the cage and looked up and stated, "That's enough adrenaline for one day!" I had to agree.

Back over at the other cage, Michael was still attempting to gain some progress with sister cat. Needless to say she was leading him around on a wild chase.  It was as if she was saying, "Ha-Ha catch me if you can."   After about 15 minutes of this she finally went into a carrier and was safely secured.

We loaded them into the car and discussed the best way to release them once we arrived at our location.  We agreed that putting some meat out for them would be in the best interest of the cats until they got acclimated to their new home.  We left and headed north with a car full of bobcats.

Now I have to be honest.  I had thoughts of "what if these guys manage to get loose?" I’d already decided if they broke free I was stopping right in the middle of I-70 and running for my life, and they could do whatever they wanted to the car!  Fortunately nothing so dramatic happened.

We were on the road for about 30 minutes when my son said, "Mom I am starving!"  Oh Lord. Is it a good idea to eat food in a car full of bobcats?  I wasn't sure, but it didn't seem too smart.  Well hunger prevailed over good sense, much like the male bobcat.  I just prayed bobcats don't like Wendy's.  Once again no problems.  Whew!

We drove home after getting lost for 30 minutes when we took a wrong turn out of Wendy's parking lot.  We arrived home and decided to thaw the meat sent home with us for the cats.  Now my son, bless his heart, raided our freezer and had enough meat to feed 3 grown mountain lions.  I tried to tell him that it was enough.  He was so funny, I just let him go.  We left home and arrived at our release location.

We lined the carriers up in a row, placed the meat on the ground in front of them, and let them smell it and see it before opening the doors.

The first door open was for the large male; now this is a cat with attitude!  He sauntered (yes, it was a saunter) out of that crate as if to say, "I dare you to stop me."  He walked right by me, looked over his shoulder once and then trotted off to the river. I nicknamed him "Prince of the Forest."  He definitely had that princely attitude.

Then it was the littlest one’s turn.  We opened his door, and he slinked out, (definitely a slink).  No eye contact for this guy; he seemed to be thinking, “If I get low enough to the ground and I get to those trees before they see me, I'm outta’ here.”   He trotted into the woods and,  my goodness, you should have seen him.  He was like a kid in a candy store!  He was running from tree to tree, to bush to grass, smelling and looking.  Talk about sensory overload. He was so sweet.

Now it was little sister’s turn, little Miss Diva of the cat world.  She refused to come out of her carrier.  We waited, we waited some more! Finally my son in his wisdom, picked up the crate and shook it.  You could see the light bulb come on.  That cat shot out of that carrier as if she'd been shot from a cannon!  Straight to the woods and gone! We all kind of laughed over that.

We decided to walk down to the River to see if we could spot "Prince." Sure enough, he had slid (none too gracefully from how it appeared) down the bank to the icy river below and crossed to the other side.  He  was approximately a 1/4 mile away from the release site.

We heard a noise to our left and "Slinky" was rambling around in the woods.  He hadn't mastered the Silent Catwalk yet, or perhaps he didn't care! "Diva" was not seen again.

We left feeling warm and happy inside.  A good deed had been done. Mother Nature had three of her own back again.

It doesn't get any better than this!

Story by Shelly Cox, FOLNC Volunteer. 
Photo Credits: Michael Sandy, FOLNC Volnteer