Floridian looks for lynx to Tahoe
Missing links in a mystery surrounding the whereabouts of a missing lynx continue to multiply.
Kingsbury resident Michael Benjamin gained ground this week in his five-month search for his wild feline “Sukie,” only to hit roadblocks with wildlife officials.
Benjamin’s 2-year-old lynx ran away in November while Benjamin was putting her in his car. Benjamin splits his time between his Florida and Tahoe residences and had to leave after Sukie ran away, but his wife stayed for a week searching.
It wasn’t until last Sunday that the Benjamins were told about a Tahoe Daily Tribune article that ran in November detailing the capture of a female, declawed lynx from a garbage can outside the Forest Inn Suites on Montreal Avenue.
Since lynx aren’t indigenous to Tahoe, Benjamin said he’s positive Sukie was the cat South Lake Tahoe police officers captured in November.
The female lynx police caught was declawed, like Sukie. The lynx was emaciated and taken to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care for treatment.
Executive Director Cheryl Millham nourished the cat and told the Tribune she was looking into out-of-state wildlife refuges, but the final decision of where to place the lynx was up to the California Department of Fish and Game.
“She is so thin – she’s just a bag of bones,” Millham said when the feline was first brought to the wildlife center. “We’re trying to figure out what she’s used to eating, maybe the owner can help us out. Then, if they’re from Nevada and can prove that it’s their cat, they can have her back.”
According to Nevada Division of Wildlife, Nevada residents can own lynx as long as the proper permits are obtained and the animals are purchased from licensed breeders. Lynx can’t be legally owned as pets in California.
Benjamin said he obtained the proper permits and Sukie was purchased from a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved breeder in Minnesota.
Millham was out of town Tuesday but told her daughter Deborah Devar the lynx was given to Fish and Game months ago.
“It took a lot to get (the lynx) calmed down and back to health,” Devar said. “My mom did everything she was supposed to do. As far as she’s concerned it’s out of our hands.”
Devar said Millham was concerned the owners of the lynx had abused the animal.
Benjamin said his family loved Sukie and never would have abused her. He said attempts to get information from Devar ended badly.
“This has become an adventure as well as a nightmare,” Benjamin said. “We were almost driven off the (Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care) premises and essentially told we would not be getting (Sukie) back.”
Benjamin did not get much further with Fish & Game.
“No animal has ever come in matching that description. It went somewhere else and we don’t have it,” said Patrick Foy, Fish and Game public information officer. “Any animal who comes in here goes into the log book, and no lynx was logged in 2000.”
With each lead hitting a dead end, Benjamin said he hopes Sukie’s whereabouts soon will be discovered.
“I’m hoping Mr. Foy is going to say, ‘Oh yeah, we overlooked her,” Benjamin said. “I’m just wondering how she didn’t get back to us with two levels of ID.”
Sukie had a collar with Benjamin’s information and a microchip implanted in her shoulder.
“I just want my baby back,” Benjamin said. “And I would hope she wants me back too.”
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.