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Injured bobcat expected to return to nature soon

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THE young bobcat found injured near Falcon Lake earlier this month is expected to run wild once again.

The eight-month-old female, found Jan. 17 by Manitoba Conservation officers who believe she was hit by a vehicle, had a successful five-hour surgery late last month to repair broken bones in her left hind leg and pelvis.

She had been transferred by the conservation officers who found her to the care of the Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (PWRC). In co-operation with the Assiniboine Park Zoo, the PWRC volunteers arranged for small-animal specialist Dr. Trevor Bebchuk to perform the needed surgery.

Weighing only 3.5 kilograms, the little bobcat was severely malnourished but is doing well following the surgery. She is recuperating in foster care at a rural location. In six weeks, she can have more X-rays and the next step of her rehabilitation can be planned.

"She's a young kitten; she was starving, she was very underweight and seriously injured so her body is under a lot of stress right now, but she's actually standing on the leg already and definitely normal in her behaviour," said Lisa Tretiak, founder and president of the PWRC, a volunteer-run organization that arranges for treatment and rehabilitation of injured wild animals and, whenever possible, returns them to their natural habitats.

"She's a very aggressive and protective bobcat, which is great for us to see because it means she's willing to fight to keep herself going and will do very well when we can release her back out into the wild, if everything goes well."

Tretiak said two fractures in the animal's leg were repaired with a metal plate, wire and screws to help stabilize the bone. A bone broken in three places on the left side of her pelvis was also repaired.

The surgery was performed at the zoo hospital where the bobcat remained for about five days after the surgery before being placed in foster care. She is eating increasingly larger meals of mice and rats to help her gain weight and she is receiving pain medication and antibiotics.

"It's been unique for us to be able to help a bobcat; they don't come into rehab very often," Tretiak said. "They're more of a secretive animal out in the forest. I would never recommend anyone other than a conservation officer to capture her. She is a very aggressive bobcat."

The bobcat should not be mistaken for a lynx. A bobcat is smaller in size than a lynx with shorter legs, smaller feet and longer tail. The bobcat is more tawny in colour with black spotting.

Tretiak said only certain volunteers have the training and experience to care for her.

"There's no handling or touching her. She's very, very aggressive. She growls all the time and she swats if you get a little too close to the enclosure," Tretiak said.

"That's very typical of bobcats, especially younger bobcats who are a lot more ferocious and vicious. But that's always a good thing. That's what they need to maintain a territory and survive. Even the staff at the zoo said she's a lot more aggressive than their current bobcat.

"She's a very feisty one."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2014 A6

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