A frail bobcat kitten stumbled out of the woods in Potosi, Missouri in late July. Members at the local YMCA received a surprising rush of adrenaline when they found the wild cat wandering around the parking lot alone.
The tiny baby was very malnourished and covered in ticks and parasites. Although her weakened body was suffering, she displayed all the hiss and wild instincts that bobcats possess.
Witnesses contacted the Missouri Department of Conservation who trapped the abandoned kitten. They searched the area but did not find a mother or any other litter mates. She was taken to the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of Missouri and Illinois rescue facility in north St. Louis.
Here she would receive the care she needed to survive from knowledgeable and experienced wildlife staff and volunteers.
They know first-hand that bobcats are indeed wild animals and require special care and developmental steps so they can later be released back into the wild with the skills needed to thrive.
This means learning to dislike humans.
Upon arriving, the little girl only weighed about 3 pounds and was about 2 months old. Normally bobcat kittens are born in the springtime and remain with their mother until they are about 4 or 5 months old. During this time, the mother will provide their food while training them to hunt before they set off on their own.
Bobcats are solitary animals, with a female bobcat reigning over a territory all her own. The males of the species will overlap territories, especially during mating season which goes from December to April.
They are unsure what happened to this little one’s mother, but sadly she would need help at her age if she was going to survive her ordeal. Staff at Bi-State Wildlife are sure to follow specific rules to ensure both her safety and theirs.
The founder of the group, Angel Wintrode, relayed just how scary the little girl could be in an article done by the local newspaper.
“If you close your eyes, you’d think there was a full-grown lion in there,” Wintrode said of the sounds coming from the bobcat’s enclosure. “She’s making noises you wouldn’t think would be possible from such a tiny, adorable thing. She growls, hisses, bares her teeth and arches her back.“
“She knows she’s not supposed to be around us, and that’s exactly how it should be,” she said.
Since she arrived at the facility, she has happily gained 5 pounds and is feeling much sassier. She was given de-worming medication and has been vaccinated. Residing in a 6 foot x 6 foot cage, her caretakers have ensured it has all the comforts of the home she will one day know.
The floor is lined with pine shavings and they have placed large tree branches and native plants so that she can hone her natural instincts. She regularly likes to hide among the provided shrubbery and has won many hide-and-seek games with her rescuers.
They are also very careful to not allow human contact with her.
This even means handling her food with gloves.
They refrain from touching her food and/or the containers it is served in. She needs to avoid and fear human scents if she is to remain vigilant in the wild. If she knows to stay away from humans and not see them as a means of a food source, her chances of avoiding danger in the woods are much higher.
And this little girl eats a LOT!
Her all raw meat diet is costing the shelter about $500 a month to date. Her meals are shipped overnight from a special distributor to be sure they do not contain dangerous diseases or parasites themselves.
They are providing her with all the essentials that she will be able to hunt when released; mice, quail, rabbits and baby chicks. We know it’s difficult to think of her poor food sources but this is the circle of life and she needs the organ meat, the fur, the bones to grow up healthy. To help her necessary hunting skills, she will be upgraded to live food in the coming weeks.
As soon as she is old enough, healthy enough and has honed her bobcat skills, she will be released. Ideally these big cats are brought back to the area they are found in, but conservationists will be reviewing the area to decide if this situation is best.
Sadly, bobcat hunting is legal in the Missouri and Illinois areas that she was discovered in. Bobcat hunting season goes from mid November the end of January in Missouri and in Illinois up to 350 of the precious cats can be legally killed during this time. This is why the instincts to avoid humans need to be deeply ingrained in the young cat.
“They don’t have to do anything wrong to get shot at,” Wintrode said. “People shoot at bobcats just because they exist.”