Friday, June 12, 2015
This summer has been neither easy or lazy, but it sure has been interesting.
I have noticed a shift in the kind of pleas for help I get over the phone all day long.
Since the Ohio Division of Natural Resources has listed wildlife rehabilitators by county on its website, I've gotten a different kind of caller. More resourceful, more informed, more invested in the animal or bird they've found. What I used to get was, "I found a ______. When can you come pick it up?"
I'd have to explain that I don't run a bird ambulance, that I'm not paid by the state to do this, but that I'd try to help given these limitations.
Now I get people who seem willing to take personal responsibility for their find, who will work with me to find a solution. It's a whole different cut of caller. I think it's related to the fact that the pool of callers, rather than being just those who've called a veterinarian or wildlife officer or ODNR, is now composed of people who are resourceful enough to look for a rehabilitator themselves, online.
Whatever the reason, I'm getting some interesting calls.
This one came in the evening, from friends who live about 6 miles from our place.
"Julie, I know you are more of a bird person, but I wonder if you can help us with a little problem."
"We have a bobcat kitten here and we don't know what to do with it."
Yow. Holy cow. The cellphone photos started rolling in. I never doubted my friends as to the ID, but seeing it was a whole 'nother thing. They told me that they'd heard it yowling from a drainpipe outside their garage. They figured it was a housecat that had gotten stuck in there, and were making plans to get it out when it suddenly appeared in the yard, not stuck at all, but hiding. It had a bob tail, wild spots and all, and it was still calling for its mama. Rrrow. Rrrow. Rrrow. A hoarse, low-pitched snarly call, nothing like a housecat's, unless it were very large or very angry.
Knowing that its mother should be nearby and hearing it, they allowed it to wander around the yard, and it spent a day and a night in the woods alone.
Its mother never came for it.
The next day, my friends saw it walking on their road, still alone. They knew it was time to intervene.
Whatever happened to its mother--whether she was shot, trapped, hit by a car or killed by dogs, they were sure she couldn't get to her baby. My friends took the bobkit in and offered it soft canned cat food and water. It was clearly on the verge of starving.
Luckily, it had all its teeth and a powerful will to survive. It tucked into the food without hesitation.
It was so hungry and messy as it ate that they removed the soft towels from its carrier. Easier to clean.
Please note tiny tufts on eartips, not to mention the wild facepaint.
That evening, they called me.
I was galvanized into action. I didn't know much about bobcats, but I knew there was likely to be a protocol for dealing with them. I did a little rooting around online, found an old news item and called a wildlife rehabilitator near Cincinnati who apparently deals with bobcats. I called and left a message and got a quick call back. She informed me that, while she has a permit to keep a bobcat as an education animal, she's not licensed to rehabilitate them. She told me that I'd have to call my county wildlife officer first, and that he'd help me place the animal.
It was, of course, a Sunday night. But Washington County Wildlife Officer Eric Bear picked up his phone. I was very glad to hear a live voice. The first thing he told me to do was put it back out in the woods near where it was found. I assured him my friends had covered that step admirably.
Even though the kitten was so small, the responsibility to do right by it felt very big to me. I still couldn't believe I was about to see, and perhaps touch, this phantom of the woods. Just to house it for a little while would be a privilege.
Next: What to do with a baby bobcat?