Bobcat recovering in Tahoe Paradise
One of nature’s most efficient predators is enjoying room service in a house in Tahoe Paradise.
Waiter, another field mouse, if you please.
But that’s OK. Cheryl Millham’s latest house guest is a 24-pound bobcat, which is on the mend after being hit by a car two weeks ago on Highway 395. A South Lake Tahoe resident found the cat unconscious on the side of the road, and brought it to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, which specializes in treating and rehabilitating wild creatures in peril.
“Bobcats are rare in South Lake Tahoe, but you see them occasionally in outlying areas,” said Millham, LTWC executive director. “We’ve raised them here before, but it’s always kind of special to see one up close.”
The current bobcat boarder is a year-old male that has really been through the wringer. But he’s now on his way to recovery, thanks to a coordinated team effort.
Soon after it was brought in, Millham noticed that the bobcat was unable to use one of its hind paws. Kevin Willits of Alpine Animal Hospital – who handles many cases for LTWC – gave the bobcat a physical, and discovered that it had a broken pelvis.
So the cat was whisked to Sierra Veterinary Hospital in Carson City on Friday, where Dr. Gary Ailes performed surgery to insert a small, metal plate in the animal’s hip.
“The surgery went great,” Tom Millham said. “The doctor said he should not have any activity for six weeks. But after that, he’ll be ready to be released.”
A bobcat looks much like an ordinary house cat – except that it is a little larger, and has a patch of white behind its pointy, elongated ears.
But when this wild predator fixes its gaze upon you and growls, you definitely realize that you’re not dealing with an average kitty. Its growl is very deep and foreboding – like a miniature lion – and its penetrating, saucer-like eyes give it an extra air of ferocity.
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is not exactly equipped to handle an animal of this stature – so the Millhams had to do a little improvising. They obtained two large pet carriers, and employee one carrier for feeding the cat, and one for it to sleep in. They transfer the cat from one carrier to the other in much the same way a tiger or a lion might be transferred from one pen to the next.
Tom Millham places the two carriers face-to-face, and slides out the metal screen. Cheryl gently prods the animal with a broom handle from a hole in the back of the cage, and the bobcat moves into the other carrier.
This is done so that the carriers can be kept clean, and so that the animal can move around a bit.
“About a week ago, he started growling at us,” Tom Millham said. “That’s when we knew he was getting better.”
The bobcat is fed a diet of baby chicks, mice and gophers – a growing juvenile can eat three times its weight in food a day. It costs the center about $7 per day to feed the cat.
The rehabilitation is a success story so far, but it underscores a pressing need for a proper enclosure for larger animals.
“If we were to get an adult bear or another large predator here, we would have no place to keep him,” Cheryl Millham said. “We have a large enclosure in the back that is unfinished. We’re still trying to raise enough money to get it completed.”
The Millhams estimate that about $25,000 is still needed to complete the enclosure. Last year, a sick mountain lion was brought to the center, but had to be destroyed because there was no place to keep it.
“We’re always fighting that battle,” she said. “We would even be grateful for any donations to help feed the animals.”
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