Oct 3, 2015

Another dead bobcat - SGAR poisoning suspected

By Rebecca Dmytryk

On September 29th, I received a call about a bobcat in a yard on River Road in Felton. The caller was concerned because the cat had been seen in the vicinity for a couple of weeks and she was worried for her dog and other animals. She was also concerned because the cat did not seem to scare off easily.

I went through my typical questions, trying to tease out all the facts, and I asked her to send any pictures or videos she had because I needed to see the condition of the animal. My guess was, without even seeing the cat, it was sick, possibly suffering from rodenticide poisoning.

I assured her, the bobcat posed no threat to her family, that is was probably attracted to the chickens and the rodents that come with raising livestock but if her animals are contained in predator-proof enclosures there should be nothing to worry about.

She sent me these images from September 26th:

Right away, I knew the bobcat was sick - it was suffering from a severe infestation of ear mites, or otodectic mange. 

Normally ear mites are found deep in the ear canal, but can infest the skin on the outer ear. In severe cases like this, where, likely, the animal's immune system has been compromised, the mites take over the face and can spread over the rest of the body.

A trained eye will notice the sharp outline of the cat's profile, where it is missing fur on its face, and its nearly bald tail, and the poor animal's expression.

This cat was very, very ill and needed to be caught, which meant setting a large cage trap during the day and monitoring - we do not set traps that cannot be watched.

Unfortunately, we did not have any specially trained volunteers available who could devote the day to this mission, to set and watch over a trap. This would have to wait until the weekend. 

I asked the resident if she'd keep watch and keep me posted on sightings, and not to squirt the cat with water or chase it off - we needed it to feel safe in their yard. If the animal started showing up regularly, we'd attempt a capture sooner. 

The cat was never seen again...

On October 2nd, the resident emailed me that a neighbor had found the bobcat's body the day before, down by the river. 

It was found by the water, another indication the animal might have died from exposure to a second-generation anticoagulant rodenticide (SGAR), as hemorrhaging causes thirst.

The problem with these poisons and how they impact our wildlife is thoroughly explained in this excellent post by Laurel Klein Serieys, HERE - please read it. Another article, HERE.

Anger and contempt for the makers of these horrible products and the whole, bloody kill-kill-kill response to rat and mouse problems, tempered by sadness, frustration and regret, fueled a new mission, to get that cat's liver and get it tested.

By the time I could collect a specimen, the cat would have been dead for at least 72 hours... I contacted the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Investigations Lab in Rancho Cordova to make sure old liver is good liver. Yes.

I was sent a map detailing where I could find the deceased bobcat. 

Late Saturday afternoon, Duane dropped me off at the trailhead to the Zayante Trail inside Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. Cooper, my dog, was at my side - he's got a nose that can find pretty much anything. In hand, gloves, mask, blade and resealable plastic bags.

It was a beautiful walk on a sandy trail. Dappled sunlight through redwood, cottonwood, sycamore. Just lovely. 

I used my iPhone to navigate. As we closed in on the location, we found a trail that seemed to lead to the creek.

Indeed, the singletrack led us to a wide sand and stone bank, the confluence, where Zayante Creek meets the San Lorenzo River. A moment to take in the beauty and then I turned to look for the cat. 

There it was, just steps from the trail, just a few feet from the water's edge. Poor cat. Poor, poor cat.

I gloved-up, put on a respirator mask and began documenting.

I used Theodolite to record the location of the carcass. I took pictures of the animal's teeth to help determine its age, and documented its skin condition. 

Then it was time to cut.

Using a utility blade, I gently worked through the fur, just below the sternum, lightly scratching through the thin outer layer of skin and ever-so-delicately through the peritoneum to reveal the insides. Here, we are all pretty much the same... and there it was... what I had come for... the large, carmine-colored organ.

I gently slipped my fingers behind the liver and cut it free, placed it in a plastic bag, degloved down to my first layer and double-bagged the specimen. Deed done.

It was a somber walk back to road but I felt good. I felt I had honored that poor cat in the best way I could - to find out why it died... and maybe these words will help educate others about the real cost of using rodenticides... and then maybe, if the results confirm it was use of rodenticide that killed it, perhaps this story will add weight to any move to get rid of these horrible poisons once and for all.

Stay tuned!

WES has a fund set up for testing specimens for anticoagulants. They are costly - about $120.00. If you'd like to sponsor a Rodenticide Screening, click HERE

Thank you!

A huge THANK YOU! to the residents of River Road for 
reporting this bobcat and helping with recovery of its body.


Maggie said...

Thank you Rebecca. What you did is really important!

Colleen H said...

I commend you for your devotion