Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bobcat is on exhibit and available for all visitors to see!

Contributed by Allison Meador, Director of Conservation Education for the Micke Grove Zoological Society

Zoo staff observe the bobcat exploring his new forever home.
The air was a bit chilly on the morning of January 14 but our hearts were burning with excitement for our first glimpse of the little bobcat in his new exhibit. Animal Care Specialist Julie Rosenthal was in charge of opening the gate so that Animal Care Specialist Carrie McMorris, a main contributor to this blog and the bobcat's primary keeper, could see the cat explore his new "forever home" for the first time. Carrie had stashed some of the cat's favorite enrichment items, including a bright green ball, in his exhibit to encourage exploration and to let the bobcat know that he was in a safe place.

We all held our breath as Julie opened the door, and at first, the little guy wouldn't come out! Carrie called for him using his private training name, and soon this gorgeous - but actually not so little - cat zipped right out into his exhibit and straight to the fence to look at us all! Staying true to the cat family, he smelled and rubbed up against every stick, plant, sprinkler head, and wall that he could. The golden lion tamarins housed next door were watching us observe the bobcat and started chirping loudly to get our attention, not knowing that a predator moved in nearby (the two species will never be able to see each other but may hear and smell each other; the tamarins have never known this kind of animal and so they may never fear it).

The bobcat exploring the tallest point in his exhibit.

In less than five minutes, the bobcat had leaped to the catwalks lining the top of the exhibit wall and checked out the beautiful oak woodland habitat surrounding the zoo. As he came around a corner, he startled the neighboring resident golden eagle, who with her excellent vision will probably always be keeping a watchful eye on the bobcat's every move.

The bobcat smelled the top of the old Christmas tree before
rubbing his scent on it - and then dragging it off!

As a wild squirrel in a tree behind us barked an alarm, the cat moved back down to the floor of the exhibit and had discovered his bright green ball. The phrase "a cat is a cat whether it is big or small" had never seemed more true: the bobcat swiped at and chased after his ball like a house cat chasing after a toy mouse! He would occasionally stop to scratch his very sharp claws into tree logs in his exhibit and roll around in the dirt, and would occasionally come up to the fence - seemingly to say "hi" - and watch us intently as we walked away.

Knowing that the bobcat was comfortable in his exhibit, we contacted the press and invited them out for a media event to photograph the cat and interview staff. The Record, The Lodi News Sentinel, and News 10 came out on Friday the 17th and produced great articles and segments that you can see in the links below. Our VIPs and donors joined us for a breakfast preview on the 18th, and our membership has been invited for a special breakfast preview on the 25th. However, the bobcat is available for anybody to see 7 days a week from 10AM-5PM with zoo admission.

Despite the fact that the bobcat seems to behave like an over-sized house cat, the reality is that this animal is a wild and potentially dangerous creature whose species plays a very important role in a variety of North American habitats. This bobcat joined us because he became too habituated to humans during his rehabilitation period to be released into the wild, where his personality would pose a danger both to him and to humans. Therefore, his new role is to join Micke Grove Zoo staff in educating visitors about local predators and their habitats and most importantly, what humans can do to help protect them.

Lodi News Sentinel - Micke Grove Zoo's feisty new bobcat is right at home
The Record - Bobcat settling in at Micke Grove Zoo

The Micke Grove Zoological Society will be leading a fundraising based naming program to provide the bobcat - and many other animals at the zoo - a stage name that the public will come to know the animals by! 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Time's almost up!!

Posted by Carrie McMorris, Animal Care Specialist

Happy new year!!  What a great beginning it has been.  Over the last two weeks I have been busy not only getting all the last minute touches done on the Bobcat's new exhibit, but I accompanied the zoo curator to Albuquerque, NM to pick up the zoo's new snow leopard cub.  You can read all about that trip and the snow leopard cub in the snow leopard blog.

As I mentioned previously, I have also introduced the bobcat to the tools keepers like myself use in operant conditioning using positive reinforcement.  Right now he just wants to play with the target stick. Which is understandable as he is still young. Once he is more settled in his new home, I think he will be better able to focus.
These are some of the training tools I will use. Top left is a dog whistle. To the right is a clicker and on the bottom is the target .

This is the behavior "target" where he touches his nose to the target.

This demonstrates the "paw" behavior, touching his paw to the target.
Now for the best news..... his quarantine is just about over!!! He will be out in his new home on Saturday January 18th!!!!! Please come by and welcome the bobcat to his forever home at Micke Grove Zoo!!!!

Until then....

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bobcat Watch

Contributed by Jessica Larsen, Education Specialist for the Micke Grove Zoological Society

When walking through the beautiful grasslands and woodlands of our North American countryside, have you ever felt like you were being watched? Perhaps you got that "creepy feeling" and the hair on the back of your neck started to rise, but when you turned around, nothing was there - well, nothing that you could see, anyway. Does that mean nothing was actually there?

The bobcat's camouflage helps it hide among rocks and grasslands.
How easily can you see the cat in this picture? Photo Courtesy
Because of their secretive nature and cryptic camouflage, few people ever see bobcats in the wild. But that doesn't mean that they don't see you. Bobcats are designed to be stealthy hunters that stalk their prey and take them by surprise, and have even been nicknamed the "spitfires of the animal world" due to their fearlessness and willingness to stand and fight when provoked. Even the young kittens can be quite ferocious. Nonetheless, their safest defense is to stand back and observe their threats to determine if their energy is better saved for another day.

It is assumed that bobcats received their name for their short "bobbed" tail, although the way run also makes them appear "bob" through the trees. Quite athletic, bobcats are extremely agile and are excellent climbers. They can run at about 30 mph when chasing a meal, can out-swim a dog, and their spring-loaded back legs enable them to jump as high as 10 feet.

In addition to their athleticism, bobcats are very intelligent. They are notorious for outsmarting other animals and hunters, including humans. One of their tactics is to backtrack over their own scent trail, which helps hide their most recent path and confuse both predators and prey. Speaking of scent trail, they will urinate on just about anything that stands. This is one clue that certainly tells animals - humans and non-humans alike - that they're around!

Given the unlikeliness that you will see a bobcat in the wild, you can look for other clues about their presence without having to sniff them out. In the wetter months and in regions where the ground is moist or soft, search for tracks that have four toes without claws and an "M" shaped pad that are no taller than 1 1/2 - 2 inches. Like most cats, they are secretive about where they go to the restroom, but if you come across a pile of scat (animal feces), examine it to see if it resembles a larger version of your typical house cat's. If the tracks and scat look fresh, chances are a bobcat is watching you from nearby.

Comparison of commonly seen tracks in the wild, including the bobcat. Photo Courtesy Michigan DNR.

Keep following our blogs for updates on the Micke Grove Zoo's new bobcat!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Half way done!

Shared by Carrie McMorris, Animal Care Specialist 

Today marks two weeks since our little bobcat arrived and he is quickly becoming a staff favorite.  He is adjusting well to the sights, smells, and sounds of Micke Grove Zoo.  He was given access to an outside pen area in Quarantine last Friday. (one week after arrival) and when myself or other keepers peek in to check on him he is often seen outside.

This coming up week, I will introduce my training tools to him. These tools will include a clicker and a target.  The target will be a tennis ball on a stick.   I intend to have him do behaviors like touch his nose to the target, stand, go into a crate, and step onto a scale for starters.  These basic behaviors will allow me to work with the cat in a safe and calm manor.  Training can be a slow process, but I am not worried about training this cat, he seems to enjoy my attention and is food motivated! this means he should be willing to do what I ask him for a little bite of a tasty treat like a piece of mouse!

Next week I will let you know how his first training sessions go...
until then....
Animal Care Specialist
Primary keeper for the bobcat