Lesson 1.5: About Bobcat Rehab Keepers

Bobcat Rehab Keepers are Level 5 Interns or Master Keepers whom work hard facilitating bobcat rehabilitation. At the sanctuary, there are 5 keeper spots available in the Bobcat Rehab Program.

Becoming a Bobcat Keeper


Level 5 Interns and Coordinators are eligible to request to become a Bobcat Rehab Keeper. If you’re interested in becoming a Bobcat Rehab Keeper – awesome! Make sure you have emailed your request to the Bobcat Rehab Program Manager.

We try to keep a bobcat’s exposure to as few people as possible. In order to do this, once a person is assigned to be a Bobcat Rehab Keeper for a specific bobcat, they may stay on as an assigned caregiver for that bobcat for the duration of the animal’s time in rehab. We expect that this will fluctuate as Level 5 Interns finish their internships. Efforts will be made to include everyone who requests to participate in the bobcat rehab program, however, it should be expected that you may be on a waiting list. But don’t worry! We’ll keep you posted.

Requirements


Vaccinations

All keepers at BCR must receive pre-exposure rabies vaccines. Pre-exposure vaccination consists of three 1 ml injections of vaccine given intramuscularly on a schedule:

  1. one injection on day 0
  2. one on day 7 and
  3. one on either day 21 or 28

Injections are given into the lateral aspect of the upper arm over the deltoid. The cost of these vaccines is approximately $900. BCR will pay for vaccines for Level 5 Interns who participate in the rehab program. Coordinators who participate in the rehab program are responsible for the cost of their vaccines.

Keep in mind that only keepers who have been vaccinated may lead initial capture or assist with veterinary procedures and care for rehab bobcats during the 10 day observation period upon intake.

Apparel

As we mentioned in Lesson 4.1: Role, Bobcat Keepers must wear ghillie suits when feeding, cleaning water dishes, perimeter check, and raking/cleaning enclosures. Remember that this is how we minimize the chance of bobcats associating people with food and other positive reinforcers. Normal attire is appropriate for initial capture and exam, catching rehab bobcats for vaccinations, veterinary procedures, and when working on labor intensive projects in the outdoor rehab area. It can get wet and muddy out in the sanctuary, so make sure you wear closed-toe shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.

 

We couldn’t do this without you!

Role


Overall, your role as Bobcat Rehab Keeper is to maintain an exceptional level quality of care for the bobcats in our rehabilitation program, and to ensure that this care is provided according to regulations and standards, while safeguarding both people and the cats.

Bobcat Rehab Keepers can expect to:

  • Assist with the rescue of injured or orphaned bobcats
  • Support the capture of rehab bobcats for veterinary care
  • Clean and maintain the bobcat’s hospital housing
  • Prepare and provide food, clean water, and enrichments for the bobcats
  • Assist with the introduction of foster families/surrogate mother cats
  • Fill out the daily tracking chart thoroughly
  • Clean, maintain, check, and repair the outdoor bobcat enclosures
  • Communicate with the rest of the Big Cat Rescue team via email, phone, and in person
  • Assist with the release of rehabilitated bobcats
  • Contribute to the ever-evolving program through creative problem-solving, and collaborations

 

Avoiding Imprinting

ghillie suits hide a person's human appearance
A bobcat rehabber wearing a ghillie suit

Wearing ghillie suits when working around the animals is one method we use to avoid imprinting on the bobcats. These suits are specialized, camouflaged clothing meant to resemble the surroundings, and disguise your human appearance. Since we don’t want bobcats getting used to people, this is one way we ensure that doesn’t happen.

We also have a strict “no talking” policy when we are interacting with the animals, especially when they are in their enclosures. One exception to this policy is when the bobcats are being treated in the cat hospital. That experience is scary and unpleasant; since it is not enjoyable for the animal, we aren’t worried about imprinting on them in that scenario. Overall, the goal is to maintain that natural and healthy fear of people that is necessary for bobcat survival in the wild.

Responsibilities


Schedule & Documentation

Each keeper has one day assigned each week, a Dedicated Rehab Day where they are responsible for taking care of the bobcats that are being rehabilitated. The Bobcat Rehab Program Manager, however, cares for the bobcats twice a week.

The keeper schedule is posted at the top of the daily tracking chart for each rehab bobcat currently in the program. Every day requires documentation of all of the care we provide. We log the following information:

  • Date and time of care
  • Feeding, including what was fed, how much, and when
  • Cleaning of the enclosure
  • Clean water replenishment
  • Notes including the name of the keeper providing the care, in case there are any questions

We also document the animal’s weight and program enhancements, when appropriate. This daily log is required for the care and rehabilitation of our animals, so it is critical that these logs be completed thoroughly, accurately, and regularly. This tracking chart is shared with all rehab keepers as well as Carole Baskin. Warning: Be very careful when making changes to this chart, as it changes for everyone who has access.

If necessary, keepers can make arrangements to switch coverage days temporarily. However, if a permanent schedule change is needed the program manager should be notified and the posted schedule updated.

Communications

To communicate with all of the Bobcat Keepers and the Bobcat Rehab Program Manager, email bobcatrehab@bigcatrescue.org. If you receive an email from the Bobcat Rehab Program Manager, please make sure you reply with “read”, “understood”, “received”, or some form of confirmation that you have viewed the message so that the manager knows that everyone has read the information and is up-to-date. This email address may also receive emails regarding wild bobcat reports from individuals; the Bobcat Rehab Program Manager will respond to these reports.


Nice job completing this first section! Now, let’s see what you’ve learned. Click Take Quiz below to show off your new knowledge before moving on to Section 2: Rehabilitating Bobcats, Part I.

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