Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Remember, bobcats are not pets!

Casa Grande: Bobcats Not Pets

POSTED: 11:03 am MST February 3, 2010

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. -- A bobcat captured near a Casa Grande subdivision earlier this week will soon have a new home in the wild, but health officials say the incident is a good reminder to residents to be cautious of wildlife that might be living nearby.

The 12-pound female bobcat, believed to be about 6 months old, is one of three that had taken up residence in a culvert near the Coyote Ranch subdivision said Linda Ericson, supervisor of the Casa Grande Animal Care and Adoption Center.

Residents had been feeding the trio of cats -- a mother and two kittens -- which discouraged the animals from moving out of the area.

"These bobcat kittens are cute and fuzzy -- their fur is exquisite -- and I think people fed them because they're cute and they were thinking they were helping them," Ericson said. "But this is not a household kitty. This is a wild animal. They have teeth and claws that can do real damage. And with wild animals, rabies is always a possibility."

She said that while people often have good intentions when feeding wildlife, providing an undomesticated animal with a free meal is the single worst thing a human can do for it.

"If people hadn't been feeding these bobcats, they probably would have moved on a long time ago," she said.

The mother bobcat first appeared in the area in July and soon gave birth to the two kittens in the culvert. With a steady source of food supplied by residents, and nearby chickens to hunt to supplement her diet, she remained in the area along with the two kittens.

"In a normal situation in the wild, the kittens probably would have left their mother by now," Ericson said. "They are old enough to fend for themselves."

Because they grew up in close proximity to humans, the kittens have not developed a natural fear of humans, Ericson said.

"I was able to get within 20 feet of this kit," she said. "She should have been afraid of people."

Because the bobcats are wild animals, Casa Grande animal control officers required special permission from the Arizona Game and Fish Department to capture them. Once that was acquired, officers set out to trap the cats. So far, only the one kitten has been captured, but officers believe the mother and sibling are still in the area.

According to the Game and Fish Web site, bobcats are common throughout the state and tend to live near shrubs or bushes. Adult cats can weigh anywhere from 15 to 35 pounds.

Bobcats are carnivorous and tend to eat small mammals and birds but they have also been known to eat lizards, snakes and small pets, including cats. Excellent jumpers, the animals can leap up to 12 feet, making the average 6-foot fence an inadequate barrier for a determined cat, according to the agency.

Bobcats rarely attack humans, according to Arizona Game and Fish, but attacks are not unheard of. In December, a rabid bobcat in Oracle attacked two men.

This year, there have already been three new cases of rabid wild animals in Pinal County -- two skunks and one coatimundi, said Heather Murphy, communications and public relations director for Pinal County.

"It's still very early in the year, so that number is higher then we'd like to see it so far," Murphy said.

In each of this year's three cases, the rabid animals came in contact with domesticated companion pets, she said.

"It's never advised to have an unvaccinated pet. Rabies vaccinations are inexpensive and it is the only way to protect a pet from the disease," Murphy said.

The bobcat captured by Casa Grande officers has exhibited no signs of rabies, said Ericson, clearing the way for its release into the wild. The mother and sibling cats are also not believed to be rabid.

Bobcats are not the only wild animals in the area, Ericson said. Coyotes, foxes, bats, skunks, raccoons and other animals also live in the area and are often attracted to nearby homes that might offer an easy meal. Although they may be cute, Ericson said residents should remember they are wild animals.

"If you see a wild animal near your home, the best thing to do is leave it alone. Don't feed it and chances are it will leave by itself," Ericson said.


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