Bobcats in the rehabilitation program are fed strictly whole and live prey unless they are too young to consume these food items, or their injury or illness prohibits them from eating boned foods. Food items include:
- turkeys and
Whenever possible these prey foods are purchased in a natural color that would mimic their wild counterparts. However, it is often difficult to acquire natural colored mice and rats as white is the standard in the industry.
A set feeding schedule has been devised throughout the years and is pre-filled into the daily tracking chart by the Bobcat Rehab Program Manager. This feeding schedules changes frequently and is based on the individual needs of the bobcat. Be sure to check the chart prior to feeding each day to ensure the correct food is given.
Varying feeding techniques and employing tactics to remove the human element from food delivery is critical to ensuring the bobcat remains a candidate for release. The goal of feeding is to provide whole or live prey in a manner that closely mimics a wild environment and encourages the bobcat to employ its senses and physical acuity while removing the human element.
Live prey feeding for bobcats in the rehab enclosure includes the use of a tunnel system. A maze of PVC tunnels are connected to the rehab enclosure,
starting with a drop station outside of the enclosure. The tunnels progress through twists and turns, eventually ending up inside the rehab enclosure. In order to encourage the prey to move through the tunnels, small holes have been drilled every few feet along the underside of the curve of the pipe; this also prevents flooding.
When it is time to feed the bobcat in the enclosure, live prey is placed in the drop station and the lid is screwed shut. The Bobcat Rehab Keeper then leaves the area to reduce the possible association of humans with food. The prey navigates the tunnel system, choosing its own path and eventually exiting into the rehab enclosure. The design of the tunnel, including multiple exit points, mimics the random nature in which wild prey becomes available to the bobcat. Exit points can also be utilized by the prey as an escape strategy, as all exit points of the tunnel system can be re-entered by the prey. The duration of a single feeding instance can vary greatly, since it is dependent upon the actions of the prey, how quickly the prey navigates the tunnel system, and if it utilizes the tunnels to escape.
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