A run-in with a bobcat

  • A three month old bobcat looks out from her enclosure the day she was admitted to Elaine Conners Center for Wildlife in Madison, N.H. over a year ago. She was released after 10 months of rehab. Courtesy Cathie Gregg

Monitor staff
Published: 4/18/2016 11:12:46 PM

Joanna Murphy didn’t even change out of her pajamas before rushing to the aid of an injured bobcat Sunday morning. 

Murphy, who lives in Sutton, said she received a call about 6:30 a.m. from a friend driving along Route 114. “She called me and said, ‘Hey, there’s a cat in the road.’ I jumped in my truck with my pajamas on, slippers, no socks.”

She took a crate and blanket just in case. When she found it, Murphy immediately saw it was no housecat.

“My heart sank. Unfortunately, it was a beautiful bobcat – just beautiful,” Murphy said. “She was a good size – medium-sized dog.”

Murphy noted she had been an active opponent of the recently withdrawn proposal for a bobcat hunting season in New Hampshire. “They mean a lot to me,” she said.

This bobcat, she said, appeared to have been hit while running across the road and suffered an injury to its hind end, but was still alive “and full of feist,” Murphy said.

She had some help from nearby neighbors and diverted traffic around the cat – “I was standing there, in my slippers,” said Murphy – and in the meantime, they tried to call the Fish and Game Department for help, but were unsuccessful.

“It was quite a scene. I have to say, I was really dismayed that there was no one from Fish and Game that could come,” Murphy said.

Fish and Game law enforcement division administrative Lt. Heidi Murphy said by phone Monday that conservation officers are generally dispatched on the weekends, though last weekend, there were several search and rescue incidents they responded to.

On most occasions, Lt. Murphy said in situations where large animals like deer, moose, bear or a bobcat are injured past the point of rehabilitation, conservation officers will euthanize the animal by shooting it.

This wasn’t the case on Sunday, however. Joanna Murphy phoned wildlife rehabilitator Maria Colby of Wings of the Dawn in Henniker, who said she advised Murphy to call state police.

“She said it was badly injured,” said Colby, who noted she works closely with Fish and Game. She also will refer people to Cathie Gregg, a wildlife rehabilitator in Madison, who has a permit to care for bobcat in the state. But when Joanna Murphy called, Colby said that didn’t sound like an option.

“I told her to call state police,” Colby said. “It probably needed to be put down.”

Joanna Murphy said a trooper arrived more than an hour later. The trooper, Sgt. Maurice Sampson, she added, “was wonderful” and suggested she and the others help wrap the bobcat in the blanket and put it inside the crate.

It sounded nice, but wasn’t easy.

“It really put up a fight considering its injuries,” Joanna Murphy said.

Gregg, a Madison rehabilitator, said that’s generally the case with the 20 bobcats she’s cared for over 25 years. “They aren’t really easy to handle,” she said Monday.

But she and the others did get the bobcat in the crate eventually, and trooper Sgt. Sampson took it to CAVES veterinary practice in Concord Sunday morning. There it was euthanized, CAVES confirmed Monday.

Lt. Murphy said the trooper’s choice to take it to CAVES – and not put it down there on the road – was most likely due to the others helping him with the bobcat. While a well-placed bullet ends an animal’s life quickly, it can upset those in the vicinity, she said.

Sampson could not be reached for comment.

“For the most part, we don’t get a lot of injured bobcat calls,” said Lt. Murphy. “Usually if they’re hit by a car, they’re dead.” In that circumstance, Lt. Murphy said Fish and Game picks up the carcass for biological research on the bobcat population.

Looking at the whole situation Sunday, Joanna Murphy said, “It’s just kind of ironic because I’m one of those people that went to the public hearings.”

She referred to the months long debate about bobcat hunting in New Hampshire, which ended just days earlier.

Working with the neighbors, the state trooper and the bobcat on Sunday, she added, “It was kind of a special moment – we were all trying to help this poor defenseless animal,” she said. Though they ended up not being able to save the cat, Murphy said, “I just felt like it was worth a shot.”

Wildlife, she added, “is not to be taken for granted.”

(Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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