Woman’s actions give ailing bobcat a chance at recovery
DULUTH — Linda Nervick spotted the bobcat Sunday afternoon driving the backroads to Duluth from Ely.
She got out of her car with the intent to photograph what she thought was a lynx.
She soon realized she had much more on her hands than a rare brush with a wild animal.
“When an animal trusts you, it’s so special,” Nervick said.
The young male bobcat made no effort to get away from Nervick, and she began to get a sense it was in some sort of health crisis. It obviously was emaciated and was walking oddly, she said. She walked along the road, and it followed her.
“I didn’t feel threatened at all,” she said of the 45 minutes she spent with the bobcat.
She started talking to it and asked if it was OK. There was a short attempt at a hiss, but Nervick knew something had to be done.
“It was almost like he was looking for help,” she said.
She watched the cat struggle to slip over a fence and into a shack. That’s when she called a friend associated with Wildwoods Rehabilitation of Duluth.
She made the right call. Volunteers came out and easily captured the animal, and it was sent to a central Minnesota facility that specializes in cats. As of Tuesday afternoon, the bobcat was snarling and eating, both good signs, said Nancy Wolfe, president of the board that runs the nonprofit Wildwoods.
“He’s not out of the woods,” Wolfe said.
Wildwoods founder Peggy Farr was happy to hear Nervick called in the specialists.
“We wouldn’t want someone to catch any wild animal on their own,” Farr said. “It’s good to call us, and we will find the resources.”
Wildwoods gets a few calls on bobcats every year.
In January 2012, an injured bobcat was found outside a Hermantown home and was captured by Wildwoods volunteers. It had a similar weight loss and also showed signs of trauma, likely the result of being hit by a car. The bobcat made it and was released back into the wild in May.
Farr said this week’s bobcat can be considered “guarded” when it comes to his recovery.
“It’s going to get a chance at recovery,” she said.
“I think they did exactly what they should have done,” said Martha Minchak, a Duluth area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. While the department can find people to help, it doesn’t have the necessary facilities to care for wild animals.
“They do a great job,” she said of Wildwoods.
Minchak said she has worked with the rehabilitator when it was basically run by Farr and her husband, Farzad, out of a home. It began seven years ago but became a nonprofit two years ago, allowing the Farrs to raise money and boost its volunteers.
“I realized that it was just me and him, and if we gave it up, we’d be done,” Farr said. “As of last year, I think we’re no longer the biggest contributors to Wildwoods.”
Slowly, the work Wildwoods is doing is spreading into the community mindset.
“I’m happy to see they’re a growing concern,” Minchak said.
The bobcat is the most common of three cats found in Minnesota. The other two are the Canada lynx and the cougar.
The prime bobcat range is northeastern Minnesota, and they are prized by trappers for their fur. The Department of Natural Resources estimates that 2,000 bobcats are in northern Minnesota.
“This story only helps with the awareness,” Farr said of Wildwoods and its resources. It’s a good lesson on knowing who to call about animals struggling in the wild, she said.
Because of Nervick’s actions, there is hope the bobcat might live and be released this spring, Farr said.
“People should have their number on their phones,” Nervick said of Wildwoods. “You just call them and they’ll tell you what to do.”
Wildwoods can be found online at wildwoodsrehab.org with a link to updates on Facebook. The phone number for animal emergencies is (218) 491-3604.
Article written by Mike Creger of the Forum News Service.