Bobcat encounter offers lesson on wildlife

Lauren Hernandez By Lauren Hernandez

Dec. 9, 2017 at 9:18 p.m.
Updated Dec. 10, 2017 at 6 a.m.

A bobcat is caught in a box trap at a home in Inez.

A bobcat is caught in a box trap at a home in Inez.   Contributed photo for The Victoria Advocate

Bernadette Bellanger walked out to feed her chickens one morning at her home in Inez when she saw an unexpected visitor.

"There was a bobcat lurking around, and then it disappeared," Bellanger said.

Concerned for their free-range chickens, the 53-year-old called around to see what to do.

Trey Barron, a wildlife diversity biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department office in Victoria, said it's common for bobcats to wander around areas with livestock this time of year at night and early morning.

"It is more likely to see them in the cooler months than the warmer months," Barron said, adding bobcats are not an endangered species and can legally be hunted outside city limits with a hunting license.

"We don't like to kill anything, so my husband set up a large box trap with a guillotine door baited with deer meat," Bellanger said.

Her husband saw the bobcat in the trap Tuesday while making a trip to their outdoor freezer.

"I saw her in the cage and thought, 'Oh, you're so beautiful,'" Bellanger said.

According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, bobcats breed during February, and the cubs remain with their mother until early fall when they begin to fend for themselves.

A friend of the Bellangers recommended licensed rehabilitator Nay Fojtik to pick up the bobcat to be checked out and released into the wild. Fojtik said the bobcat was about 6 months old and still learning to hunt on its own.

"The bobcat was not physically injured and was released the same day," Fojtik said. "If there are no injuries, we send the animals back to the wildlife."

After it was trapped, Bellanger said she was advised to cover the cage with a blanket to keep the animal calm.

"When you catch an animal in a cage, it scares them and stresses them out, and a blanket helps them get used to it rather than fighting it," Fojtik said.

For the past two years, Fojtik has built Nay Nay's Rehabilitation Center, where she nurses wildlife and releases them back into their natural habitat.

"I've been bringing animals home since I was a little girl. Being an advocate for wildlife animals means a lot because not many people think of nuisance animals," Fojtik said.

From deer to opossums, Fojtik releases animals on her own property in Lavaca County.

"If an animal looks sick, injured, lost or abandoned, it's best to call if you don't know so we can come out there and take care of it," Fojtik said. When it comes to crossing paths with wildlife, there is not only a risk of danger but also a risk of legality. Barron said there is not a lot one can do to move the animals without appropriate permits.

"It's best to avoid directly handling it yourself and leave that to professionals," Barron said.

Other common wildlife in the area include fawn, opossums, raccoons, skunks, armadillos, bats, coyotes and foxes.

Fojtik said she finds it rewarding to teach people about wildlife and how to care for them.

"People may think they are a nuisance," she said, "but in one way or another, they are important to the wildlife economy and the way everything works."



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