Lesson 3.4: Release Criteria & Protocol

Like diet and feeding techniques, the release criteria for bobcats will vary depending on whether the bobcats were orphaned kittens, or if they were adult bobcats when they were rescued and rehabilitated.


Criteria for Kittens

In the wild, a bobcat kitten would remain with its mother for up to a year, so the best time to release an orphaned rehab bobcat would be close to a year of age, coinciding with Spring when there is abundance of easier prey. It’s important for us to consider regulatory limitations when choosing a release date. In some cases, an exemption may be acquired in order to extend the maximum permitted time the bobcat spends in rehabilitation.

Weight in combination with age is a big determining factor of whether or not a rehabilitated bobcat kitten will be released. While a kitten may be of an appropriate age to be released, it may not yet weigh enough to ensure success in hunting large prey items like rabbits. Prior to release, monitoring equipment should be used to confirm that the bobcat is an efficient and successful hunter. When bobcat kittens have demonstrated an ability to hunt and care for themselves, and they have reached an appropriate age and weight, we will finalize our rehabilitation by releasing them into the wild. The youngest age for release is approximately 7 months.

Nova was an orphaned bobcat kitten who successfully completed our rehabilitation program!
Watch the video to see Nova released back into the wild.


Criteria for Adult Bobcats

Once an adult bobcat has recovered completely from its injuries, it will be examined and evaluated to determine if it is a candidate for release. Recovery time required for injured bobcats varies greatly depending on the severity of the injury. In most cases, the 180 day rehabilitation limitation is sufficient, but if it’s not, an extension may be acquired.

Unlike rehabilitated bobcat kittens, they do not require the soft release that is afforded during springtime. Injured adolescent or adult bobcats who have fully recovered may be released at any time of year, since they already possess the hunting skills necessary to survive in the wild. Prior to release, the bobcat should be thoroughly evaluated using monitoring equipment to ensure that it is physically and mentally fit for release.


Hope the bobcat on release day.

Release Sites

Once a bobcat is ready to be returned to the wild, we’ll secure the ideal release site for the animal. Requirements of the site include:

  1. A minimum of 40 acres
  2. Located within the same county from which the bobcat was initially rescued
  3. Obtained written permission from the landowner
  4. Adequate natural shelter
  5. A water source
  6. Plentiful prey base
  7. If possible, adjoining tracts of land with similar features or that may serve as a corridor to additional parcels suitable for the bobcat

It is our goal to release our rehabilitated bobcats on the largest property available in order to ensure the success of the bobcat’s survival.

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