By Cristina Rodden
A litter of bob cats are safe and secure after being found inside a Humvee on the range May 20.
Personnel in a vehicle maintenance area on post who where tasked with transporting a military Humvee back to Fort Bliss were surprised when they entered the vehicle and an adult bobcat leapt from the open window on the driver’s side of the Humvee.
The personnel were used to seeing the bobcat in the area on a regular basis, so they thought the animal was just using the vehicle as a temporary shelter. After moving the vehicle to a garage to prepare it for transport, they were again surprised to find five, 4-5 week old bob cat kittens in the Humvee. They contacted DPW Environmental Office to inform them of their predicament.
A DPW wildlife biologist responded immediately and requested the Humvee be moved back to its original space in the vehicle maintenance parking lot. To everyone’s surprise the bobcat mother returned to the Humvee that very same evening to care for her kittens. Throughout the next week of monitoring the bobcat family, DPW wildlife biologists encountered many visitors wanting to take a peek at the new residents in the Humvee. Due to the human disturbance, the mother bobcat became stressed and began to move her kittens to a location that she felt would be safer. She tried to move them twice and in the process abandoned two of the five kittens.
As wildlife managers, DPW wildlife biologists do their best to balance the needs of wildlife with the needs of people using the best available science. Based on the unfortunate occurrences and growing concerns for public safety of the WSMR workforce, the DPW wildlife biologists made the difficult decision to capture the bobcat family to have them moved into their native habitat. Because bobcats are a protected furbearer, protected by State Law in New Mexico, WSMR wildlife biologists are required to coordinate with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Within one night, our local Game and Fish Conservation Officers performed a great job in safely capturing the bobcat mother and her kittens. Early the next morning, Game and Fish immediately transported the bobcat family to a wildlife rehabilitation center located in Espanola, New Mexico. At the Wildlife Center, http://www.thewildlifecenter.org/, in Espanola, their experienced wildlife personnel will work hard to rehabilitate the bobcat family and release them into a more suitable wild habitat.
This is the second incident in five years in which DPW wildlife biologists have had to capture and relocate bobcats. If you have any wildlife concerns or issues, please contact the DPW Environmental Office at 678-2225.
A few quick facts about bobcats:
- Bobcats (Lynx rufus) are small robust cats that inhabit much of North America and can range in color from tawny brown to reddish, and can vary in their degree of spotting.
- Bobcats weigh between 12-25 pounds with the males generally being about 4-7 pounds larger than the females.
- Bobcats are obligate carnivores (they only eat meat) and locally prefer to eat rabbits, ground squirrels, gophers, and woodrats.
- Bobcats are solitary and territorial.
- Male home ranges are around 2 square miles, while the female home ranges are around 1 square mile.
- Bobcats usually have 2-4 kittens in a litter sometime between February and June each year. The mother raises the kittens alone.
The Many Reasons to Keep Wildlife Wild
- Stress: Wild animals view people and domestic animals as predators and are highly stressed by the sights, sounds and smells of being in close proximity to humans or domestic animals. This stress can cause serious health problems, and even death, for a wild animal.
- Diet: Wild animals have specialized dietary needs that are not easily met in captivity. Baby wild animals especially require a specific, complete diet; otherwise they are at a high risk of suffering serious nutritional deficiencies that can leave them deformed for life. Do not feed a wild animal ‘human food items’ because non-natural food items will most likely cause more harm and will not provide nutritional benefits.
- Disease: Wild animals carry many different diseases and parasites, some of which are transmissible to humans. Wild animals are also susceptible to the same diseases that domestic cats and dogs can carry. These diseases can be transmitted between domestic animals and wildlife (or vice versa). This is just one reason to keep your pet cats indoors and all your pets’ vaccination up to date.
- Habituation/non-natural behavior development: Wild animals need to learn normal social behaviors from their own species. Wild animals that learn non-normal behaviors from living in urban settings, humans or domestic animals will likely not survive if they are released because they have not learned the correct survival skills, they have lost their natural fear of humans and predators and they may be abnormally habituated to human activity. As baby animals grow into adults, they can still demonstrate dangerous wild animal behaviors that can threaten human and domestic animal safety.
- It’s illegal: Most wild animals are protected under state and federal laws and cannot be taken from the wild or possessed by unauthorized citizens. Raising a wild animal as a pet is not only against laws and regulations, but it is not doing the right thing for the animal. Even though wild animals are cute, they should not be viewed as pets.
- Slow Down: Roads are frequently a source of mortality for urban wildlife, including urban carnivores. Slowing down and being more observant will keep you, your family and wild animals safe.
- Exposure to Poisons: Wildlife in urban settings is exposed to poisons such as pesticides that we use around our homes or in commercial areas. One of the biggest threats to our local bobcat populations is rat poison exposure. They are exposed because people use the poisons in a variety of urban settings such as in and around the home, at schools, watershed areas, parks, golf courses, landfills, and commercial buildings. As the poison works its way up the food chain, it becomes more lethal as the dose accumulates in larger animals which will eventually lead to their death.
There are many things we can do to alleviate the stress of human encroachment on wildlife populations. A great thing to do is educate yourself about what animals live near you. Be aware of their presence and how we may affect them. We are neighbors to local wildlife. Be aware that domestic cats and dogs roaming free outside have detrimental effects on our native wildlife. They can be a source of disease for native wildlife (or vice versa) and they kill our native birds, lizards, and small mammals. Free roaming pets can also be a source of food, attracting carnivores such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. Keep your home clean of debris that rodents and other small wild animals seek for shelter. There are no safe rodent poisons that do not have potential secondary poisoning of native wildlife. Keep in mind there are many other things people can do such as support local land conservancy groups and research teams and promote broader public education. Lastly, remember to keep the windows to your vehicles rolled up.
Remember: Wildlife is valued by many, and it’s important to observe them at a respectful distance to keep you safe and them wild to allow for their life in the wild to continue.