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A week in the life of wildlife rehab:To backtrack to the beginning:
In October I got a call that a Bobcat had been hit by a car over on Lake Street right in front of the Post Office. (This is in town - houses all around and maybe about a block size vacant wooded area on each side of the street - you would never think of a bobcat that close to humans.) Anyway, when he came in - he was unconscious - blood around his ear and head, and a few scratches on his side and legs. I gave him some meds for brain swelling and trauma and I left him alone - figuring he would probably die before the day was out. He was a young male - almost full grown - probably about 10 months old.
He lived through the day and night, but could not stand or hold his head up. I had to force/hand feed him and hold his head up so he could swallow. He would try to stand and just fall over - he could not get his balance. After a couple of days, he would growl when I opened the cage door and take a swipe at me with his big, sharp clawed paw - but his eyes could not focus and he would miss-by-a-mile. Still being very weak, I would grab him by the scruff of the neck and feed him.
After a few days - he did not seem to be improving so I dosed him up with a mild (homeopathy) tranquilizer and took a trip to the Vet. Now - the Vet I usually use is young (in his 30's - terrible to think of that as young, isn't it??) When he came to practice in Lake Charles, we became friends (he was too "green" to know any better) and now I won't let him get out of helping me with the wild animals. Anyway, when I got to the clinic, I went into an exam room, closed the door, and put the Bobcat on the exam table. "Min-nu" the Bobcat was not a "happycamper" - but I had a good hold on him. The door to the exam room cracked open and Joe (the Vet) stuck his head in and said "He looks OK to me." (Joe is not the bravest Vet.) After I finally got Joe to come in and exam the cat, we took some x-rays and determined that nothing was broken - no skull fracture, etc - and would just have to wait and see.
Very slowly, week by week, Min-nu improved, started eating on his own, and finally I was able to put him outside into a large totally enclosed pen.
SIDE STORY: A few days after I put the Bobcat out side - I released 4 baby skunks in the same area as the cat pen. One of the skunks, being small, squeezed through the cage wire and got in with the bobcat - to eat his food. Then, the skunk could not squeeze back out. Well, I couldn't leave the cage door open, and I couldn't go in and chase this skunk around with a wild cat in there (and even though he was young, the skunk could still "spray" with the best of them). So, I had to just leave him and hope he could find a spot to get out on his own before the cat decided to make a lunch of him. THEY BECAME CAGE MATES. The cat would eat and leave some for the skunk - I don't think they became "friends", but gave each his own space - so to speak. The skunk has grown so big it is the size of a grown house cat.
Back to the Story:
"Min-nu" got big and strong and was ready for release back in December. But, due to weather and winter, meaning that there was no food (prey) out there. So, last week, I decided that it was time. Spring is coming (here) and we are getting babies (squirrels & rabbits, etc,) in - so food should be available.
I figured the easiest way, was to set a large humane trap in the pen with food in it. Min-nu would go in after the food and the trap door would close. I could put the trap in the car and transport him to freedom... WRONG!
Well, a week ago Sunday I set the trap up with a piece of chicken in it and waited for the sound of the door falling - IT NEVER CAME. I when out to check and the chicken was gone - the door was still up - and the cat was up on his perch licking his chops!!!!!! SO MAYBE the door got stuck - I checked it over - everything worked fine. So, I tried again. This time the door sprung - I went running out there AND - yes the door was down, BUT THE CHICKEN WAS GONE AND THE CAT WAS AGAIN SITTING ON HIS PERCH "LICKING HIS CHOPS"!!!!!! - THE TRAP WAS EMPTY - ( no it was not the skunk - he was still sleeping in his barrel.) The Bobcat had got in - grabbed the chicken - got out - before the door closed. How I do not know. This went on for two days. (I hate being outsmarted by a CAT).
So, (the light bulb goes off in my head) I will "tie" the chicken to the back of the trap - when the cat grabs it and pulls - the movement should bring the door down. Right?? Right!!!! I knew I could out smart him - he's only a "dumb" cat ---------W R O N G!
All week I have been setting the trap - tying the chicken in place - and waiting, and waiting, and waiting - he would not go near the trap. I would set it in the morning and take it down in the evening - I didn't want him trapped in there over night, or for any length of time - if he got scared and started to thrash around he might hurt himself and then I would have to get him out and try to doctor-up a "Tasmanian teeth & taloned 60lb Hairball."
Wednesday, (Boss was out of town - so I took off) morning, I went out to the pen to try again. When I got there I didn't see Min-nu - no problem - if he is not on his perch he is in his barrel still sleeping - as usual. So, I opened the pen, went in, and as I was setting up the trap - I got the feeling I was being watched, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up - I looked back and down - He was sitting by my leg just looking up at me. Talk about freeze - I didn't breath for a minute (I forgot how). I slowly inched my way to the pen door and reached behind to push it open - THE LATCH HAD CAUGHT. Now, I am closed in with, not only a snarling saber tooth tiger (well - that's what he looked like) but also a fully loaded skunk!!! (somehow that nice big pen seemed to get smaller and smaller the longer I stood there). Now, I am human - they are animals, I should be smart enough to get myself out of there before I become a smelly, shredded, memory. Needless to say - I got out (still not sure how). Anyway back to the story - Safely outside of the pen - I told Min-nu (what did I have to lose? - nothing else worked - maybe "reasoning" with him would) that if he would only go in the trap, he would be released in the woods, by the river, and have plenty of room to run and roam, and food to find and eat, and maybe even a young female bobcat to track.
Maybe it worked and maybe he just felt sorry for me - he went in the trap (ate the chicken) and Mom and I packed him in the car and took him to the release site. Once there, he wasn't sure he wanted to leave - but finally he went his way.
Did I learn anything? - Only that I am human and supposedly smarter, BUT if the "dumb" animal does not know it (or believe it) then it just ain't so...
P.S. Skunk decided - No cat, no food - so he left too.