Monday, October 23, 2006

The broken window allowed access into the small shack. People rarely entered the small well house. A perfect place. No one knows how long she had known about the broken pane of glass, but, she knew her babies would be safe; at least until they were able to leave through the window themselves.

Five days after they were born, someone thought to look in the shack. Goats on the ranch were turning up dead and the rancher was looking for the killer. There in a darker corner beside the well pump, were 4 very tiny, what looked to be, kittens. The rancher immediately thought to kill them but his daughter intervened and took them to her home. The following day, after the rancher lay in wait, the mother bobcat was shot as she exited the shack through the broken window, obviously distressed over her missing family. Can you imagine what she felt coming back to nurse her 5 day old kits and finding them gone? Can you imagine her panic?

Unfortunately, the rancher's glory was short-lived. The day after the mother bobcat's slaughter, another goat turned up dead and one of the ranch horses was attacked from behind. Long gashes were left on both haunches. Obviously not the mother bobcat's doings as he thought.

The 4 kits were kept together until another rancher wanted a 'ranch bobcat' to keep the vermin out of the barn. Then there were 3. For 4 weeks these wild animals were treated as domestic. They were kept in the house, fed goat's milk, allowed the family dog to 'play' with, and young children were allowed to roust them about and eventually injure one of the kits.

I drove 200 miles to meet the daughter that rescued the kits from imminent death. She and her husband had finally realized that while the kits were cute, they were getting to the point of needing live food in order to grow properly. After all, goat's milk is really only good for baby goats.

The daughter and her husband handed over the kits in a large plastic storage tub. While two of the three looked healthy enough, the smallest looked very weak. I took her quickly and wrapped her in a towel and held her in my lap for warmth as I drove 200 miles back to the sanctuary.

How unfortunate for these tiny souls that their lives were reduced to being shuttled around Texas because of one man's desire to kill needlessly. What a tragedy that the man had no clue that bobcats do not kill goats or livestock--the cats are too small. The largest prey bobcats hunt are rabbits. If the rancher had thought for 5 minutes he could have rationalized this information with little effort. But, like most ranchers, he held fast to the MYTH that bobcats kill goats and other livestock and therefor the killing was justified.

The smallest bobcat died, despite the sanctuary's vet's best efforts. Most likely due to the stress of losing her mother and being force fed inadequate nutrition. The other two, one male and one female, are well. The larger female came in with a stress fracture on a rear leg due to being mishandled by a pre-schooler and is still limping but otherwise is doing well. They are both on a native mammal diet close to what they would have in the wild and have lost their bloated bellies, grown sleek fur and now have appropriate coordination for their age.

These babies have a great chance of being able to released as they mature. Hopefully, their adult lives will be less tragic.

UPDATE 12/06
The kits have grown into healthy active teenagers. They still retain kitten purrs when you approach their enclosure but the second you drop their food, they are aggressive, snarling dervishes--EXACTLY how they are supposed to be.
Not long ago, two more bobkits were brought to the sanctuary. I am not sure of their story, but the 4 have formed an incredible family. They soon will be moved to a larger enclosure with other adult bobcats so they can learn how to be adults. They will have rare contact with humans ensuring their release back into the wild.
Their future is so bright now.

The kits are 6 months old now and are now old enough to be moved to a larger enclosure. After the move, they won't have the human contact they've had up to this point and will be near adult bobcats. The purpose is so they can learn to be wild and fear people. Hopefully they will be able to be released by summer time.

UPDATE 10/07
3 of the bobkits were released on the 11th. They were transported to property that contains everything they will need to be free wild bobcats. The others will be released as soon as they learn not to come up to people!!!