Work's Quirks - Fall 1997
Here Kitty, Kitty
Through a sleepy fog I could hear the phone ringing at the other end of the hall. It was about the last thing I wanted to hear after a very late night trying to catch up to a pair of bears running around town. These early morning phone calls are never for my wife, so trying to outwait her for the privilege of getting up last wasn't an option.
The last thing I wanted to hear was, &Sorry to wake you Steve, but..." which would come from an all too cheerful and not too sincere RCMP dispatcher.
"Sorry to wake you Steve, but I have a lady with an injured bobcat on her porch. She tried to scare it away but its already put the run on her dog once and she doesn't know what to do."
I had really hoped to sleep in. The entire week had been a blur of bear complaints, late nights and too much bad coffee.
I got dressed and loaded myself into my truck. I radioed the dispatcher that I was on my way and settled into the seat for the hour drive to problem location. I passed by several closed coffee shops and regretted not filling my thermos before I left. After a quick stop at the office for a catch pole and cage, I stopped for coffee at a corner store.
"Werent you just in here a few hours ago?" the clerk asked. "Your tax dollars hard at work," was the best I could do.
As I pulled out onto the highway I called the woman who had reported the problem.
"I'm sure it's a bobcat. It has tufts on its ears. It looks like its paws are all chewed up and something is wrong with its jaw. My kids think it's cute. It's up on our sun deck and it is shivering a lot."
I told the woman to keep everyone away from it and that I would get there as soon as I could.
As I drove and sipped my coffee I thought about my options. I could try to snare it with the catch pole, stick it in the cage and take it to our wildlife rehabilitator to see if she could help it. Bobcats are fairly fast, so if that didn't work I could try to throw a blanket over it, let it get tangled up in the blanket, then stick it in the crate. I tried this with an eagle once and it had worked pretty well, except for the talon that came out of nowhere and pierced my glove between two fingers. I gave the eagle the glove rather than fight for it.
If the animal was hurt too badly I would have to shoot it. Likely an unpopular option with the kids present. It was beginning to appear like both the bobcat and I were in for an interesting morning.
I found the house and parked in the driveway. As I finished the last of my coffee, the woman and her kids came out to escort me to the bobcat.
"He's so cute, I sure hope you can help it. He climbed up on the railing of the sun deck and is perched up there. It seems really scared and hurt, and I tried to get close to it but it just growls and backs away. I'm afraid that it will hurt someone if we don't do something."
I grabbed the catch pole and cage and followed the woman around the back of the house.
The sun deck was about eight feet off the ground and the railing around it topped out at another four feet higher. I couldn't see the bobcat from the bottom of the stairs.
"Where is it" I asked?"
"It's in the far corner on top of a corner post."
I slowly walked up the stairs, catch pole in hand ready to try for a quick grab if necessary. As I climbed up each step I could see more and more of the deck but no bobcat. As I neared the top I started to worry that I would meet a flurry of fur and fangs. The deck went around the side of the house and this was the only part of the deck I couldn't see. As I walked past a screen door a small mutt-type dog hit the screen door barking furiously at me. This didn't help my sleep-deprived, coffee-jangled nerves. The woman had followed me up the stairs. "It's just around the corner, should I keep the dog quiet?"
I was about to suggest a more permanent solution involving the noose end of the catch pole, however I settled on "quiet."
As I rounded the corner of the house I got my first look at the subject of my early morning excursion. As promised, sitting on the corner post was the bobcat. Actually calling it a bobcat was stretching it bit. It couldn't have been more than a few weeks old. It was small enough that all four feet perched on a four-inch square corner post. When I first saw it, its eyes were closed and it looked for all the world like someone's house cat enjoying the early morning sun. As I approached, the cat woke up. As it adjusted its position I could see that its paws and lower legs were covered in burrs. It appeared like its mouth was sealed shut by burrs as well. Feeling over-equipped with the catch pole, I put it down and opened the cage door.
"I'll just grab it and put it in the cage, I told the woman". "Do you think you can?" she asked.
I looked at the cat and figured it couldn't weigh more than a kilogram or two. It was early yet but I thought I could handle it. As I approached and reached out my hand to grab the little cat, it change from a sleepy, cute little guy to a snarling, growling little bobcat. It was funny to see such a little creature put on such a big display, but not funny enough to have those baby teeth implanted in my hand through a glove.
I got a ladder from the garage and told the woman my plan. "I'll take a blanket, climb up the ladder and get behind him. You move towards him and when he turns and looks at you, I'll throw the blanket over him and we'll bundle him into the cage."
She thought this was a good idea until she got close to the cat and it put on its best imitation of a really big angry bobcat. My helper backed away.
"How about you do this part, you get paid for it. I'll hold the blanket."
We traded places. Once she was perched on the ladder with the blanket ready, I approached the cat. It switched its attention back and forth between us.
"Get ready," I said as I reached for the cat with a gloved hand. The cat turned and looked at me and then as the woman moved the blanket, it turned and with a snarl shot out a little paw full of claws in her direction.
"I can't!" she screamed.
The cat was still looking at her so I made a grab for the back of its neck. It spun on the post and I ended up grabbing it under the throat instead of behind the neck. It let out a strangled snarl and tried to surgically remove my hands from its throat with its claws. I rather unceremoniously stuffed the bobcat and my glove into the cage. My helper was still perched, frozen on top of the ladder.
I arrived at the rehabilitator's farm with my defiant little friend. She looked into the cage and tried to assess his condition. He was badly covered in burrs and looked a little thin.
"He's probably outrun every dog and cat in the neighborhood and looks plain wore out but I think he'll make it once he gets cleaned up. What's with the glove?"
I told her the story of the bobcat's capture.
"He's a real little handful. Despite his size he's got a grown up attitude already."
We put the cage inside a fenced enclosure and opened the door. The little bobcat just lay on my glove and stared at us. "He'll come out when he's ready. You want that glove back?" I looked at the bobcat and decided against trying to take it back.
"No I figure we've come out even so far. I've still got all my fingers attached so he can keep the glove," I said.
"Ill call you when it's time to release him."
As I drove away I hoped I would get that chance.
Steve Wasylik is a Conservation Officer at Castlegar, B.C.