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Baby Bobcat “Chips” Rescued From Chips Fire

Chips’ savior - Mad River Hand Crew superintendent, Tad Hair. US Forest Service photo

Chips’ savior - Mad River Hand Crew superintendent, Tad Hair. US Forest Service photo

While conducting patrol and mop-up operations on the north end of the Chips Fire burning on the Plumas and Lassen National Forests in Northern California on Aug. 25, the Mad River Hand Crew encountered a remarkable sight; a baby bobcat!  It was found wandering along the side of the road, alone and dazed.  “It seemed to be confused,” said Tad Hair, the Mad River Hand Crew superintendent who spotted the kit.

According to Hair, it was the size of a domestic kitten and seemed to have impaired vision, perhaps from the smoke and ash in its eyes.  “It was walking in circles near a stump” said Hair.  Once they verified that there were no obvious physical injuries on the kit the crew attempted to walk away, but she swiftly followed the sounds of their movements. Each time the crew would stop, she would curl up on Hair’s boots, snuggling into his chaps.

Hair and his crew members searched a large area, but there were “no tracks, whatsoever, in the ash except for this little gal’s” and they found no sign of a mother bobcat.  The lone kit, so young that its eyes appeared to be just starting to open, seemed abandoned and lost in the aftermath of the fire.  According to the National Geographic, bobcats live a solitary life and the females will typically choose a den that is secluded in order to raise one to six kits, teaching them to hunt for up to twelve months before leaving them to survive on their own.

Chips being fed formula Laurie Pearson, Fire Information Officer. US Forest Service photo.

Chips being fed formula Laurie Pearson, Fire Information Officer. US Forest Service photo.

“I couldn’t just leave him there,” said Hair, who chose to name the kit “Chips.” After contacting Fire Communications, Hair brought Chips to the Incident Command Post to await contact with appropriate parties. It was suggested that he call Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC).  The group is a non-profit organization, run by volunteers, “whose function is to raise, rehabilitate and release orphaned and injured wild birds and animals.” There are no fees associated with the acceptance and care of animals.

While awaiting the arrival of the LTWC volunteers, the public information staff cared for Chips, giving her a couple of ice chips and enormous amounts of tender loving care. Anna Thompson, a professor of biology at Feather River College and a volunteer for LTWC responded, along with her family.  They, along with public information staff, fed Chips a few pipettes full of a special kit formula which she eagerly devoured!  Responding well to the formula, Chips was energetic and curious as they placed her carefully into a carrier.

They transported Chips to LTWC where professionals, experienced in the care of bobcats, examined her and treated her injuries. The Executive Director and Co-Founder of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Cheryl Millham, said today that Chips is doing “just great!” A fire fighter who helped to transport Chips flushed her eyes while en route to the shelter. Once she arrived at there, a veterinarian took over, flushing her eyes again and added medicated ointment which is reapplied three times a day.  “We are optimistic that once the infection is clear, Chips will regain full vision in both eyes” said Millham.

She also explained that Chips had second degree burns on all of her paws, so the veterinarian cleaned off the dead tissue and carefully treated and wrapped her tender paws. Until her feet are fully healed she rests on a very soft bed, and is fed up to six pulverized mice per day, plus additional formula, if the mice do not sate her appetite.  According to Millham, to keep Chips’ paws dry during the healing process, they give her a “spit bath” after each feeding, consisting of a moist warm cloth which they use to gently rub her fur while she eats, after which she contentedly returns to sleep.

The next step in the process, says Millhap, is to ensure that Chips is exposed to other bobcats in order to learn appropriate behaviors.  “Because she is so very young, she will be sheltered throughout the winter, along with other bobcats.”

When the staff deems it appropriate, Chips will be released back into the wild, in an area where it is determined that food sources are abundant.    When advised of Chips’ well-being, Hair said he was grateful and “would love to be involved in her eventual re-introduction into the wild, whenever that may be.”

For further information regarding Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, see http://www.ltwc.org/

For further information regarding the Chips Fire, please visit http://inciweb.org

Chips in loving hands of LTWC volunteer. US Forest Service photo.

Chips in loving hands of LTWC volunteer. US Forest Service photo.

19 Responses to “Baby Bobcat “Chips” Rescued From Chips Fire”

  1. Lenora Tooher says:

    Ask the Expert: I wonder if humans can facilitate ‘grooming’ with Chips via gloved finger strokes on the fur to enhance Chips ability to make his coat glow. Chips fur will get better daily with those loving hands as the ‘scrubbly coat’ changes for the better. Thank you USFS!:-)

  2. Chris Richie says:

    Awesome story out of a sad situation. GREAT work, guys!!

  3. Lindsay says:

    I wish I were in on the help with raising and feeding this little baby…. I do wish there would be sightings of the others or mom… that;s sad…. but great job to you folks… good to read good hopeful stories….

  4. azdebra says:

    Thank all of you for saving this little kit, may Chips grow up to be strong and healthy.

  5. Aww says:

    Great job to all involved!! hope that cute kitten gets along well!!

  6. Jennifer says:

    What a wonderful story glad to see she is getting the care and love and attention she needs!

  7. Barry Morrison N.W. Mo. says:

    God bless the “nurturing” you are doing on behalf of that little surviving bob-cat. We have bob-cat’s in Missouri but we seldom if ever actually get a chance to see them! I am confident somehow your care is furthering the species one way or another…you didn’t say if it was a girl or a boy bob-cat. just curious…

  8. DJ Smith Jr says:

    Nice job by all, Chips was a very lucky kit for sure!

  9. David Caine says:

    Thank the good people setting a wonderful example and recognizing the blessing of saving a helpless creature of God. This is a nice story especially after reading of the poacher that baited a beloved bear and killed it along the shore of Lake Tahoe.

  10. Julia West says:

    Wonderful story! Please continue to update on Chips’ recovery and eventual return to her natural habitat. Article was full of useful and interesting information about the care of a wild animal. Certainly an education moment for younger citizens as well as adults. Many thanks for putting it out there and KUDOS to Tad Hair and the members of the LTWC organization.

  11. Cathy Dawkins says:

    Any new pics of Chips…I mean, c’mon…it’s been two whole days! :) And, I just have to say, Chips is just the cutest darned thing EVER…

  12. Lori Ploetz says:

    What an awesome outcome!! In a world were all you ever hear is the bad news, It is so heart-warming and inspirational to hear how so many people came together to save Chip and give her loving care!!! God Bless Ya’ll!!!

  13. auragoneboy says:

    You can see Chips’ progress on a webcam: http://www.ltwc.org/?page_id=963

  14. Lori says:

    Bless it! What a great story, precious kitten, and awesome folks for helping her out.

  15. Pamela Hertzler says:

    I really enjoyed this story. That little baby definently had a will to live!!

  16. Ann says:

    Thank you for saving one of God’s creatures! It will come back to you ten times! Hope the other kits made it out alive! This story made my day!

  17. B. Kennedy says:

    Go Tad!! Great Job….

  18. Chris Sanborn says:

    Thank you for keeping us informed of her progress! What a sweetheart. Hope she can get back to the wild someday….

  19. Dorothy Grantier says:

    This is a good example of why not to start forest fires! It is the animals that suffer the most and the media never talks about that aspect of forest fires.

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