Found alone as a tiny kitten in the middle of a road in the Orlando area, a strong and healthy bobcat was successfully released in January at our Tiger Creek Preserve, through a collaborative effort between The Nature Conservancy and Big Cat Rescue.
"The Nature Conservancy’s Tiger Creek Preserve is the perfect location for this young bobcat. We expect her to do very well in the healthy, maintained habitat of this protected area,” said Adam Peterson, Central Florida Fire and Land Management Specialist, The Nature Conservancy.
The Tiger Creek Preserve has been owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy since 1972. Located in Polk County, Florida, the preserve encompasses 5,000 acres of diverse habitat including sand-hill, scrubby flatwoods, flatwoods, marsh and forested wetlands and contains two pristine black-water streams and numerous ponds. A variety of wildlife is found here, from eagles to swallow-tailed kites to gopher tortoises. The preserve is adjacent to thousands of acres of protected lands.
Peterson and the team at The Nature Conservancy worked closely with Big Cat Rescue to coordinate the release of the bobcat back to the wild. Big Cat Rescue is one of the world’s largest accredited sanctuaries for exotic cats, and is an advocate in ending the abuse of captive big cats and saving wild cats from extinction. The sanctuary’s dual mission is to provide the best possible home for the cats in their care and to educate the public about the plight of big cats in captivity and in the wild. The organization provides a home to lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars, servals, and other species, all rescued from challenging situations.
When the tiny, two-pound bobcat was found on a road in July 2016 without its mother, it was scooped up by good Samaritans and brought to a nearby clinic, which then contacted Big Cat Rescue. Big Cat Rescue immediately drove to the clinic and took possession of the kitten, which the sanctuary named Spirit Feather. Thanks to the efforts of Big Cat Rescue’s bobcat rehabilitation team, Spirit Feather was treated for fleas and hookworms, taught to hunt on her own and rehabilitated to be returned to the wild.
© Big Cat Rescue
“Spirit Feather has grown up to become a strong, feisty bobcat equipped with the skills to return to the wild where she belongs,” said Jamie Veronica, President of Big Cat Rescue. “We are very happy that she will be released on a vast, protected property and find everything she needs there to thrive.”
In the morning of January 8, 2017 at the preserve, The Nature Conservancy and Big Cat Rescue team members set the stage for the release to ensure the bobcat could safely exit the crate in which it travelled, and find its way quickly into hearty vegetation which would provide it with great cover. Team members stood along the perimeter of an open area to encourage the bobcat to go in the opposite direction, into the vegetation. After the crate was opened, within just a few seconds, Spirit Feather leaped into her new home and disappeared into the surrounding palmettos. This bobcat release marks the second time our organizations have partnered – the first was last year, for the release of two rescued bobcats to our Venus Flatwoods Preserve.
Bobcats are found throughout Florida. They prefer deep forests, and are also adaptable to swamps, hammock, and rural landscapes, as well as urban and suburban backyards.
“We were thrilled to see her disappear into the woods and grateful that our Preserve will provide the habitat she needs to thrive,” said Steve “Sticky” Morrison, Conservation Program Manager.