Spotting a bobcat in the wild is a tremendous thrill.
Saving the life of one of these predators is perhaps even more rewarding.
That is the attitude of a local animal enthusiast who helped nurse a bobcat back to health recently after it had been struck by an automobile.
While riding his motorcycle along Sullivan Road near Beaver, Gary Booth discovered an injured bobcat in the middle of the highway. He said the adult female cat appeared to have suffered head injuries.
“Few persons have ever actually seen a bobcat,” Booth said. “A few of the people who stopped probably wanted to come back and kill it.”
Booth had other ideas, though.
The veteran outdoorsman remained with the injured feline for a couple of hours before he could find a motorist willing to transport the animal to his home near Grandview.
“I wanted to see if it was going to make it,” Booth recalled of the creature. “I called a local veterinarian and told him of the cat’s injuries, that it appeared to have suffered a concussion and that it was temporarily blind. The vet told me the cat probably would not survive, especially if it had been struck by a vehicle.’’
Booth decided to take a chance anyway.
For the next several days, the man gave the muscular cat the best care he could provide. He placed the critter in a cage and fed the animal water with his hands.
In a few days, the cat started to come around, even though it apparently still suffered from temporary blindness.
“She let me pet her and I could feel that she had kittens in her tummy,” Booth explained of his furry patient. “She responded just like any other cat, until she got her sight back.
“Once she was able to see again, I think she’d have killed me. I could not get near her without her hissing and baring her fangs. She had a way of making her mane stand up, doubling the size of her head. It was scary. I knew then that she could see.”
When the convalescent started to show signs of recovery, Booth left the door of the cat’s cage open. The next morning, the bobcat was gone.
“She returned to the wild and I figure she made a complete recovery,” Booth said proudly. “I never saw her again, and I doubt if I ever will.”
For Booth, the close encounter with the cat proved to be a kind of educational experience.
“Even though they are fierce fighters, they aren’t all that large,” Booth explained.
“This cat was only about 36 inches long. That is including its six-inch tail. It probably weighed only about 15-20 pounds, even with her kittens.”
In West Virginia, bobcats usually inhabit wild country—mountains, deep forests, and swamps, as far removed from people as possible.
And though bobcats are mainly nocturnal, sometimes they venture out in the daytime, according to retired DNR wildlife biologist Larry Berry of Fayette County.
“They have large eyes, well-adapted to see in the dark. But bobcats are color blind and see only shades of gray.”
Berry added, “It is impossible to come up with the exact number of bobcats we have in the state, mainly because the cats are elusive, nocturnal, and seldom seen. Bobcats, though, probably are more plentiful than we think.”
Booth, meanwhile, is glad his curiosity got the best of him, causing him to stop and examine the injured bobcat.
“I did not know but what it was just another dead cat in the road,” he recalled. “I looked back and saw the cat’s head move. That is when I wheeled around and went back. After I saw it was still alive, I was committed to the doing something to help it.”
Ironically, Booth said some motorists made only cursory attempts to avoid running over the bobcat lying in the middle of the highway.
“I was disgusted at first,” he said emphatically. “I felt that people did not really appreciate these wild creatures for what they are. I think they are a gift.”
Now, Booth’s faith in his fellow humans has been restored.
“I am amazed at the number of people who stopped with concern after they saw what I was trying to do,” he said.
“My friends and fellow employees asked me every day how the cat was doing. When I told them that the cat returned to the wild, they were overjoyed.”
Top o’ the morning!