I apologize for not posting in awhile. I decided to hold off on a writing and marketing career last summer and take a job teaching children with special needs for my ninth year. My passion of becoming an entrepreneur forced me take a break from working with children in order to pursue my screen printing business in late 2016. I still have slightly hidden green emulsion on one of my kitchen cabinets that I have yet to try to figure out how to remove. I have one last trick up my sleeve since my eight other methods have not been successful. However, I do take a little bit of pride with the green streak in my kitchen as I know how hard I worked to accomplish my dream (screen printing wasn’t it, but having my own business was).
Well, what can I say? It has been one of the most unique school years I have ever seen in my life, but my life motto is, “Work hard, play hard.” It’s been a few weeks since the school year came to an end, and I have finally adjusted to it being summer time! The teachers and students were ready for a summer break, yet at the same time, I think most of us were grateful to be back in the classroom this year. Now that the students have adjusted more to the structure and socialization once again, it’s time for me to play hard!
While I continue to work hard with my marketing courses that I’m currently enrolled in, I love hiking anywhere my Jeep will take me on my days off. For a couple years now, I’ve been going to my favorite hiking trails that are fairly secluded and long. Some days I’ll hike 5 miles, the other days I’ll hike 8-12 miles. The only wildlife I’ve ever seen on my hikes are deer, vultures, squirrels, snakes, and one turtle. I always make sure to keep my eyes open and my ears in listening mode as you never know. While mountain lions, bears, and moose are basically non-existent in my area, I continue to take any precautions especially after the story of a moose who decided to run into the football stadium of one of my alma maters in South Dakota where moose don’t live.
During mile 2.5 of my adventure, I switched trails to begin heading back to my Jeep. I approached a creek that was too high for my liking, so I decided to get back on the other trail and take the long way back. As soon as I turned around, I heard a meowing sound and looked down at my feet to notice a cat. It took me by surprise and led me to scream as I have not had the greatest cat experiences in my life. I sent out a quick group message along with a photo to my friends. I asked them what I should do as the cat was in distress in the middle of nowhere.
At this point, I was exhausted, dehydrated, and I wasn’t thinking too clearly. The cat didn’t have a collar, and I figured it was a stray from a nearby farm. He continued to circle my feet while meowing, and my friends told me various things to do such as, “Give it water,” “Pick him up and take him to a vet or the Humane Society!” I asked about rabies, and I was told that it shouldn’t be a concern. I even reached the point where I was about to post something on Nextdoor as it was a recent app I learned to market products and services on in addition to posting information about lost animals.
With all my years in training on how to respond to each kind of wildlife in Colorado, this adorable little kitten caught me off guard. I have always learned to never approach any animal, but never have I learned what to do with an animal in distress. I truly thought I was doing the right thing at the time by picking this kitten up as I was prepared to hike 2.5 miles back to my Jeep to get him the help he needed.
Needless to say, the cat immediately jumped out of my arms as he was terrified and hurting. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get him back to the trailhead, and I called the Humane Society to let them know about the injured cat on the trail. They asked if the cat was a threat, and I informed them that he was being very friendly and that he was in a lot of pain.
Being the mountain and backcountry nerd that I am, I took a screenshot of my coordinates from an app I have and sent them to the Humane Society. They said they would arrive in about a half hour and asked if I could hang out with the cat until they arrived. I agreed to stick around to help ease the cat’s suffering and to provide myself with exposure therapy to ease my fear of cats. The crying continued and all the cat wanted to do was curl up in a ball next to my legs while we both patiently sat on the muddy trail keeping one another company.
Wait! Don’t Pick It Up!
The flood of messages I was receiving from both Facebook and on a Discord server that allows my friends and I to instantly see each incoming message and photo, was becoming a concern. I realized that I had just picked up a baby bobcat. Surprisingly, I remained quite calm and instantly called the Humane Society back to let them know that they may be picking up a baby bobcat rather than a cat. That’s when my friends began to inform me to keep an eye out for mama. Again, during all my years of practicing for wildlife, I truly could only think of adult wildlife in this situation. I also never thought about having bobcats in my area.
I continued to send live updates and photos through social media, and my friends and I decided to name him, “Bobby”. Bobby remained pretty relaxed for the amount of pain he was in, and as soon as I began to move away from him (just in case mama was in the area), he would follow me and cry. I finally told Bobby, “Fine, I’ll stay here with you, but if your mama comes, you need to explain to her that I was trying to help you.” Based on the situation, his hunting skills, his possible age, and his behavior towards me, my friends and I came to the conclusion that he was either old enough to be out there on his own without his mama or that his mama abandoned him awhile ago. Either way, I kept my eyes and ears on high alert.
During our wait, Bobby tried to impress me with his hunting skills by going towards a noise in the bushes, squatting low, and then coming back to me. My response, “Bobby! What are you doing buddy? You need to eat! You did great getting low in the grass, but you have to be confident and go after that squirrel!” I figured Bobby was too hurt to pounce as he came back and sat next to my legs. To anyone reading this, I advise you to never do what I did, but my gut was telling me to help this kitten as he seemed to be abandoned and pleading for medical help.
After a little over an hour of hanging with Bobby, we heard a noise in the near distance. Bobby raced to a fallen tree and climbed up to see if he could spot anyone. We both spotted a guy from the Humane Society, and we both greeted Sebastin. Sebastin was taken aback by Bobby’s welcome as bobcats typically hide and are not very interactive with humans. After Bobby received a quick evaluation on his front left paw, Sebastin gave me the bad news that there wasn’t anything he could do as they don’t have the resources for wildlife. I was heartbroken and then asked what I should do as Bobby was following me. I was told to ignore him and continue walking back to the trailhead.
Sebastin, Bobby, and I parted ways while I provided an update to my Facebook and Discord friends. People were disheartened that there weren’t any resources for injured wildlife, and this was where it became interesting. Two of my dear friends from Belgium began researching wildlife organizations in my area and immediately typed, “Operation Wildlife Kansas” into the chat. Apparently, I called OWL a few minutes after Sebastin did, and they gave me the great news that Sebastin would be bringing in Bobby.
Checking in on Bobby
This morning, I reached out to Operation Wildlife to see how my buddy was doing. Bobby was brought in and was given the medical treatment he needed. However, it will take time for him to heal and to be ready to go back into the wild. Since Bobby was displaying signs of being habituated to humans, he is being isolated at the moment while receiving amazing care.
I know isolation sounds cruel, but bobcats and other prey animals (especially babies) need to learn survival skills for when they return to their natural habitats. One of the employees who works with Operation Wildlife explained that all staff wear full masks in front of Bobby so he can adjust to not relying on humans. Due to Bobby’s age, it may be at max of four months of training and healing for this little guy before he can be released back into the wild. I hope it won’t be that long as he has some hunting skills and is not a newborn.
In less than 24 hours, #TeamBobby has gained a few hundred followers on Facebook. Various hikers and cat lovers from across the globe have followed Bobby’s progress and were relieved to know that he would be fine. I’m also very grateful for the tremendous amount of support I received from several other high-altitude hikers who also are firm believers in leaving wildlife alone. While I don’t take compliments easily for doing something I think is the right thing to do, I’ve been called everything from a “Hero” to “You’re a mountain Disney princess!” And this concludes the story of how the Belgians helped this flatlander mountain Disney princess find a way to rescue a bobcat in distress.