By Chippie Kislik
Ever want a bobcat as a pet? You will when you see this kitten! With its short, spotted tail, and soft, furry coat, you won’t be able to resist. Although they may look cute and innocent, bobcats can actually kill animals as large as deer, and are illegal to have as house pets.
The only California bobcat species, Felis rufus, has black and white fur on the end of its tail, and is often mistaken for its cousin, the Canadian Lynx, which has solid black on the tip of its tail. Bobcats are also sometimes mistaken for mountain lions because of their deep, threatening growl; however, upon sight, you probably won’t mix up the two cats because mountain lions weigh about 80 to 160 pounds, while the North American Bobcat weighs only about 15 to 20 pounds.
Bobcats feast on a range of animals, including raccoons, birds, rodents, and rabbits. Inhabiting brush forests and rocky areas, bobcats stray far from urban dwellings and are usually found in the solitude of the southwest deserts. They are the most populous native and wild cat species in North America, and are found on the West Coast, along the Canadian border states near the Atlantic and Gulf Coast, and northern Mexico. Look and listen for these felines when you are on your next hike through a wooded and mountainous area! You might even come across a kitten that follows you home…
Bobcats are on my mind after I heard about the month-long Chips Fire near Lake Almanor, which scorched 75,000 acres of Plumas and Lassen National Forest and left this baby bobcat orphaned. Without a mother in sight, the dazed and confused feline was rescued by the Mad River Hand Crew. “Chips” –named after the wildfire by Mad River Hand Crew superintendent Tad Hair– had second-degree burns on her paws, but was not in life-threatening condition.
After finding this 4-week-old kitten circling a stump, the Mad River team considered leaving Chips in her home to allow for her natural recovery in the wild. Instead of returning to the forest after being found, Chips decided to follow the crew, affectionately rubbing her head on their boots as they walked. The crew could not locate any mother bobcat tracks and promptly notified Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care to rehabilitate this kitten.
A volunteer brought special formula to feed the hungry bobcat, and Chips’ eyes were flushed of the fire’s ashes while she and the rescue team traveled to the Wildlife Care center. A veterinarian at the center treated Chips’ burned paws and infected eyes and is confident that she will fully recover from the incident. Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care will shelter young Chips throughout the winter and she will interact with other bobcats in hopes of being released back into the wild when she is ready. This baby bobcat is expected to add ten pounds to her current one and a half pounds before returning to the forest, and will feast on a diet of formula and mice at the Wildlife Care center until then.
This is intern Chippie sending her best wishes and meow mixes to little kitten Chips: may your recovery be swift and your transition smooth back to the wild.