Zoo provides care for bobcat kitten taken from wild

August 4, 2016 - 10:35am

Fuzzy, 2-month-old kitten is behind the scenes at zoo's veterinary medical center

A fuzzy, spotted bobcat kitten has taken up temporary residence behind the scenes at the Oregon Zoo's veterinary medical center while he awaits a flight out of town to a new permanent home later this month.

The bobcat — a male estimated to be about 2 months old — was taken out of the woods near Eagle Point, Ore., last month by people attempting a well-meaning but misguided rescue. Wildlife officials determined he would not be able to survive on his own if released back into the wild.

Removing a young animal from the wild is illegal and greatly reduces the animal's chance of survival, according to Michelle Dennehy, ODFW wildlife communications coordinator.

"If you see a young animal alone, please leave it where it is," she said. "Its mother is likely to be nearby, even if she can't be seen. Most animals leave their young to forage or hunt. Bobcat kittens, when taken from the wild and fed by people for more than a few short days, become habituated to humans and most likely can never survive in the wild without causing problems with people, pets or livestock. "

Dennehy advises anyone who encounters a sick or injured animal to call ODFW, Oregon State Police or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. Find more information on young wildlife.

Rebecca Stites at the Smithsonian's National Zoo — bobcat population manager for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums — quickly helped locate a home for the young bobcat at another accredited zoo. Since it would still be a few weeks before a transfer could be arranged, however, wildlife officials asked whether the Oregon Zoo could house him temporarily.

"In most cases, we try to arrange for animals to go directly to their new homes," said Kristin Spring, hospital manager for the Oregon Zoo's veterinary medical center. "But in special situations, we can care for them at the zoo for a short time depending on space. Fortunately, we had room at our vet center this time."

Bobcats are named for their short, bobbed tail. Although they may look cuddly, they are fierce predators, capable of taking down a small deer. They are notoriously shy and usually avoid people, but sometimes become curious about humans and pets.

Metro, the regional government that operates the Oregon Zoo, is working with partners to protect habitat and wildlife corridors for bobcats, cougars and other large mammals through its voter-supported natural area programs. Bobcats are sometimes seen at Cooper Mountain Nature Park.