Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lake Metroparks' care of two bobcat kittens paying off

Lake Metroparks care of two orphaned bobcat kittens as paying off as the pair of felines work on developing the skills they'll need to survive in the wild.

The agency was selected by the Ohio Division of Wildlife to attend to the bobcats, each animal coming to the parks system's Kevin P. Clinton Wildlife Center. The center is a component of Lake Metroparks' Penitentiary Glen Reservation in Kirtland.

Lake Metroparks was awarded the care of the first kitten in early May when it was found alongside a road in Muskingum County. A dead adult female bobcat was located nearby, almost certainly the kitten's mother.

The second orphaned bobcat was discovered about one week later, this time in Noble County, and by a person out mowing his lawn. The mother could not be located, prompting the Wildlife Division to seek the parks system's help with that animal as well.

Utilizing a local veterinarian with experience in caring for wildlife, the parks system determined the two kittens were healthy, suffering only from some minor malnutrition as well as parasitic issues.
Initially the bobcat kittens were receiving round-the-clock care including hand-feeding every couple of hours. The kittens are now on solid food.

Introduced to each other the fast-growing bobcats are doing what bobcat kittens do best, that being rambunctious bobcat kittens, says Tammy O'Neil, the Wildlife Center's manager.

“They're becoming very brave and curious, climbing and jumping on everything, and are starting to move and act very 'cat-like,' ” O'Neil says.

By keeping the bobcats sequestered and away from nearly all human contact the animals are beginning to become more defensive when a person does have to enter the cage, O'Neil said as well.

“They are hiding from us, growing and running away; all of which are good signs of healthy development and instinctive behavior,” O'Neil said.

O'Neil says the bobcats particularly enjoy eating venison, provided via a specially built “feeding chute that also helps to minimize human interaction.

One worry early on was that one of the bobcats appeared to have some serious vision problems. Such a situation could prove a game-changer in the intended release of the bobcats back into the wild.

However, the bobcat's vision shows signs of strengthening and improving, lessening the fears of Wildlife Center staff, says Lake Metroparks' executive director Paul Palagyi.

“They fight and play and when they sleep they often curl up together,” Palagyi said.

So interested in the welfare of the two bobcats that about 200 people have stopped by the Wildlife Center to inquire about their condition along with the agency fielding nearly four dozen telephone calls requesting the same status information.

To that end the Wildlife Center has set up a display in its lobby that provides updated information and photos on the bobcats.

And the fund-raising appeal from the Lake Parks Foundation for the care of the bobcats has thus far resulted in donations of $1,500. The hope is to raise $10,000 for the project.

Actually, make that considerably more, Palagyi says.

Palaygi said that a man walked into the Wildlife Center not too long ago, handing over a check for $5,000 to help defray the expected long-term care of the bobcats.

The donor said the money was in memory of his late sister who would have approved of Lake Metroparks' care for the now fast-growing bobcat kittens, Palaygi said.

For further information about making a contribution for the care of the bobcats, contact the agency at 440-709-6205.
- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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