An orphaned baby bobcat no bigger than a baseball cap is recovering at a Nova Scotia wildlife rehabilitation centre after it was discovered cold, muddy and alone in a suburb outside of Halifax.
The animal, found by a hiker at the end of a road in Fletchers Lake, weighed less than a kilogram when it arrived three weeks ago at Hope for Wildlife.
“It looked in really hard shape,” Hope Swinimer, founder of the Seaforth-based rescue centre, told CBC Radio’s Maritime Noon on Monday.
“I think it actually started to climb up the pant leg of the rescuer. These are all behaviours that would indicate an animal in distress needing help.”
The bobcat, named Fletcher, was badly dehydrated and so cold that the centre’s medical staff couldn’t even get a body temperature reading. Staff at first guessed Fletcher was a male cub, but later determined she’s female.
The first step was to warm her up and give her fluids.
“She was really emaciated, and it’s important not to feed an animal when they’re that down and out so over the next week, we slowly introduced milk and food that she would be accustomed to in the wild,” Swinimer said.
The baby bobcat’s diet now consists of mice, chicks and rabbit and she’s since gained another kilogram.
Staff estimate the tiny creature was two months old when she arrived late last month.
Swinimar said the baby’s mother likely died because a female bobcat wouldn’t abandon its young.
Baby needs motherly instruction
Female bobcats don’t reach maturity until they’re about a year old, said Swinimer, and babies usually nurse until they’re four months old.
“They will hang with the mom and the mom will teach them a lot, and that’s the hard part is getting them proficient at what they need to be able to do to be a bobcat that can sustain itself in the wild world,” she said.
Ensuring an injured or sick creature receives the right kind of medical care without having too much human interaction can be a balancing act, Swinimer said.
“From fawns to skunks to groundhogs to foxes, baby beavers, all of them need as little interaction as possible, but they still need care,” she said.
Still, she said staff at the centre “very seldom see imprinting in these animals because we’ve been doing it for years and years and we’ve become very good at it.”
Hundreds of calls a day
Swinimer praised the quick-thinking hiker who came across the baby bobcat and quickly texted a picture to the centre.
She said it’s possible on a warm summer day for Hope for Wildlife to receive up to 200 calls from people concerned about the well-being of wild animals. Only about 20 to 30 of the animals end up needing help.
Fletcher is still in the centre’s intensive care unit, but Swinimer said she’ll soon be strong enough to move to an area outside, away from humans, where “she’ll get to experience the real world very quickly.”
Swinimer said it’s not unusual for the centre to see orphaned bobcats during the summer, and usually when they’re this tiny they’ll wait until the spring to release them back into the wild.
“We’re very hopeful with this little girl that she’ll be back out in the wild, and I think it’s going to be a great success,” she said.
Maritime Noon53:08We hear from Hope Swinimer about a baby bobcat being rehabilitated at Hope for Wildlife. We visit a pow wow outside Bathurst, NB. And on the phone-in, paint and stain expert Jim White.