One of the most beautiful cats in Oregon is rarely seen by humans.
Although bobcats have stable populations throughout the state, their nocturnal lifestyle, excellent camouflage, and wariness of humans keeps them hidden from view by all but the most avid back-country hikers.
This week, doctors and staff in the OSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (VTH) were thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a bobcat up close and personal.
A few days earlier, a good citizen found an injured juvenile bobcat in the ditch off highway 20 near Blodgett, and risked their skin to wrap the ferocious, snarling cat in a blanket and take her to Chintimini Wildlife Center. The center immediately provided water and food for the starving cat then sedated her enough to give her an examination. They found a broken leg and called OSU for help.
Several veterinarians in the Corvallis area provide pro-bono assistance to Chintimini, but the most challenging medical cases often go to OSU. (See previous story). “The leg was fractured with a number of pieces and fissures,” says orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jennifer Warnock.
Dr. Warnock was able to rebuild the leg with plates and screws donated by DePuy Synthes. She designed the placement of the hardware specifically to avoid the formation of soft tissue calluses in the upper leg muscle. “Calluses can cause quadriceps adhesions which would slow the cat down,” she says. That was a critical issue for an animal whose survival depends on speed in hunting.
There are other concerns when operating on wildlife. For one, the anesthesia is different than it would be for a dog or house cat. “Our anesthesia team is amazing,” says Dr. Warnock. “They are so skilled with all species, and great at pain control.” In fact, many hands worked together to save the bobcat, from the skilled technicians who assisted in surgery, to the experts in radiology, to the fourth-year veterinary students who provide post-surgery, tender, loving care.
It was a stroke of luck that student Margot Mercer was on rotation in the hospital when the bobcat came in. She had been a Chintimini volunteer for three years prior to starting vet school, so had lots of wildlife experience. “I was really excited to be the surgery student on the bobcat case,” she said. “I was one of the few people comfortable handling her without sedation.” It was also a great opportunity for Mercer to observe a feline fracture repair. “I learned lots of new things that are translational into small animal practice,” she says. “The basics are the same as they would be for domestic cats.”
The surgery bill was funded, in part, from Dr. Warnock’s teaching fund, and, in part, by the college’s Olive Britt Hope Fund. “This is a great example of the quality of OSU care and compassion; how we can come together to make it right for this beautiful cat,” says Dr. Warnock.
The surgery went well and the bobcat is now recovering in its kennel at Chintimini. “Her IV is out and she is eating like a champ,” says a spokesperson for the refuge.
The bobcat will return to OSU in six weeks for a checkup. If the bone has healed, then Chintimini can begin the long process of rehabilitation. Because one of her four canine teeth was broken and pulled, they want to be sure she can still hunt before they release her back to her territory. “It will be late spring before she is released,” says Dr. Warnock. “She needs to be able to reliably kill live prey.”