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June 13, 2011

Den of Two: Orphaned Bobcat Kittens Learn to Be Wild

The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center creates a temporary home for two babies who need to stay wild to survive

The Humane Society of the United States / The Fund for Animals

  • The bobcat kittens at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center. Ray Eubanks/The HSUS

  • The bobcat kittens' outdoor den will prepare them for life in the wild. Ray Eubanks/The HSUS

  • The bobcat kittens are both orphans who came to the center separately. The HSUS

  • Staff keep contact to a minimum, so the bobcats can teach each other to be wild. The HSUS

by Julie Hauserman

When a seven-week-old orphaned bobcat arrived at the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif., he was friendly and happy—and that wasn’t good.

It’s best that wild bobcats don’t get too comfortable with humans, and this little guy—dubbed “Happy Bob” needed to quickly be separated from people once his immediate medical needs were met.

 

watch footage from the (hidden) baby bobcat cam »

A woman in La Jolla, Calif. found the little bobcat on her back porch, and she mistakenly thought he was a regular lost neighborhood kitten. Her husband returned from a trip and immediately realized the kitten was a wild cat.

Search for a bobcat buddy

Once at the Wildlife Center, the bobcat was checked out and quarantined. Then, Wildlife Center Director Ali Crumpacker went to work trying to find a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center that might have another bobcat baby, since bobcat kittens are raised together in the wild.

But transferring “Happy Bob” proved unnecessary, because—surprise!—another orphaned bobcat came into the Wildlife Center shortly after.

“It’s rare that we get bobcat kittens at all,” Crumpacker said.

Bobcats are elusive, and they largely range in Northern California, not Southern, where the Wildlife Center is located.

Angry Bob arrives

They called this new bobcat “Angry Bob,” because he came in “feisty and hissing at us,” just like a wild cat should, Crumpacker said.

He was weak, and “we pulled 44 engorged ticks off him,” Crumpacker said.

When the second cat was well enough, both were moved outside to a small enclosure that mimics a den.

Raised to be wild

“We stay away from them as much as possible,” Crumpacker explained. “We are letting them teach each other how to be bobcats.”

The bobcats are fed by humans who hide behind a blind to prevent the cats from associating humans with the appearance of food. As the cats grow, they will be moved to a larger enclosure with trees to climb. (See a video on our Facebook page of one of the bobcat kittens learning to climb a tree branch in their enclosure.) 

When they are six or seven months old and it is clear they can fend for themselves, the cats will be released to live their lives in the wild.

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