On Tuesday, WES was referred a call about a bobcat with mange in Aptos. A resident had seen it drinking from their pool in the mornings, for about three days in a row. They sent a photo showing a very thin, very ill cat.
I arrived on scene at about 9 the next morning. A beautiful mediterranean-style home atop a hill surrounded by oak woodlands and agricultural fields.
I set a large cage-trap in the backyard, positioning it along the path the cat would take to drink from the pool, and baited it with a bit of rotisserie chicken and some raw venison pet food. Yellow jackets swarmed in quickly.
A few yards away, the pool sweeper hissed and spit water onto the patio. I worried this might hamper the rescue but there was no way to turn it off.
With the house empty and the yard quiet, I sat in the rescue truck and watched and waited, and listened for birds to alarm. About every 15 minutes I'd check the trap from a distance. Nothing.
By 10:40 there'd been no sign of the cat and it had grown uncomfortably hot. I packed up the trap and headed down the long wooded driveway, and of course, there was the bobcat. It skirted in front of the truck and stared as I drove by, slowly.
I went to the bottom of the driveway and turned around. As I headed back up the hill, the cat had made its way closer to the path that led to the backyard.
I rushed to get the trap set, then back to the truck before being seen.
As I rounded the truck to jump in the driver's seat, there it was, some 30 yards away on the edge of the driveway - stationary, staring at me.
I got in the truck and closed the door quietly. The cat disappeared into the bushes, headed in the right direction. Out of sight, I hopped back out and ran to the backyard through another gate on the opposite side of the pool.
Finally she appeared. This poor bobcat. So emaciated, so covered in mange. Heartbreaking. And we probably did this to her.
As she walked to the edge of the pool, the skimmer gurgled and spit water - she barely reacted. She was driven by incredible thirst.
Animals that consume poisoned rodents - rodents that have eaten bait containing anticoagulants, receive a dose of the poison. One poison-laced mouse might not be enough to kill a healthy bobcat, but, these powerful agents build up in an animal's organs, and, after a certain point, the immune system is compromised and the anticoagulants cause internal hemorrhaging. Blood loss then triggers intense thirst.
From across the pool I documented the bobcat as she drank, and drank, and drank.
After about 10 minutes, she shook her wet paws and started to walk towards the trap. I thought for sure she'd notice the food, but, she didn't even look at it. She walked right by the trap, climbed a wall, and settled in a patch of sunlight to groom herself.
So disappointing. I thought for sure I'd need to return with live bait to catch her attention.
After about 15 minutes I decided to try and get some footage of her resting. When she wasn't looking, I positioned myself directly across the pool from where she was.
The poor thing - she was in such bad shape, and it was so frustrating - she was right there, but I couldn't get her. The huntress in me was thinking of all the ways I might try to capture her, but none was as sure as the trap. I needed to keep hold of patience and hope.
After a few minutes she became a bit restless and then, to my surprise, she got up and hopped back down the wall, presumably for more water - then she noticed the food in the trap.
I felt a rush of adrenaline as she approached the trap and started working the side of the cage with her claws, desperately trying to get at the chicken breast. My heart was racing. Then I got shot with a spray from the stupid pool skimmer.
The bobcat kept working the side of the cage as yellow jackets buzzed her face. I worried she'd trip the door.
Finally, annoyed with the wasps, she made her way around to the front of the trap and, without any hesitation, walked right in and tripped the pedal. Done.
I grabbed a bed sheet from the truck and covered the trap to carry her to the rescue truck. She was calm. Not a good sign.
It was about an hour's drive to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley where she would receive expert care.
They took her weight - she was just over 8 pounds, and, in spite of it being an extremely hot day, her temperature was only 98.
She died Friday afternoon.
This once beautiful thriving feline queen of the woodlands was brought to nothing but bones and fur and flesh - her wild life slowly faded as she suffered horribly in her final days, gripping to precious life, and we probably did this to her.
If this story saddens you - if you feel anger or outrage, allow your emotions to empower you - to move you to action. Arm yourself with facts about rodenticides (some links below), be ready to take a stance - be ready to speak up and speak out because we are headed for battle. We are going to outlaw anticoagulant rodenticides - we must!
We will be sending her body to UC Davis for a necropsy to determine the cause of death and what poisons may have contributed to her demise. If you want to donate specifically to anticoagulant testing or our efforts to ban anticoagulant rodenticides, click HERE. And thank you!
Why Poisons Matter
EPA's 2008 Risk Mitigation Doc
Poisons Still For Sale
List of research studies
|Map of bobcats reported to WES. ORANGE = suffering from mange, BLACK = suffering from mange and captured, BLUE = observed healthy, GREEN = captured, treated for mange and AR exposure and released.|