Daily Fishing and Outdoor Report

Story behind a bobcat saga in Stafford ...

COVERT BOBCATTING: A goodly few folks asked me why I had been unusually mum on the lost bobcat thing over in Manahawkin – seeing such a story was right up my oddness alley. Well, during Rocky’s great adventure, I went undercover, writing-wise, while doing dedicated, behind the scenes maneuvering.

I’ll alert folks to the fact Rocky has come home, as I knew it would. But more on that below.

I’m semi-covertly trying to assure that Rocky, the well-domesticated Manahawkin bobcat, and his loving owner, Ginny, are assured a life together. But, things aren't looking great, following the removal of Rocky from Ginny’s home on Monday, compliments of Animal Control and Popcorn Park Zoo – with a lone cop there to monitor the proceedings. Now, much is riding on a Friday date with the courts, when Ginny will plead her case to keep her treasured pet.   

But back to beginnings.

Ginny contacted me when Rocky first got out – and was tucked in a neighbor’s yard. In nothing flat, the feline was spurred into fevered flight by an arriving overload of authority figures, mainly those with badges. I got calls about the rather hefty number of police cars that screeched on-scene. Many of the law enforcement first-responders were locked and loaded, seemingly for a bear-like showdown. I have to think more than a few of the blue boys were zipping on-scene just to check out a real live bobcat. A couple/few might have been secretly nursing thoughts of actually bagging a bobcat. Ginny quickly began fearing for Rocky, as arriving officers bandied about comments like, “I can get a good shot at him.”

Personally, I now freak when Stafford officers respond to a call like this. Just last year, a not-so-wild turkey was randomly trotting around Ocean Acres when an officer blasted said turkey into (euphemism alert) a nondescript feathery cloud. It had been somehow rationalized that the big bird just might cause an accident on nearby Route 72. Well, that whacking sent a clear message to any other wild turkeys pondering strutting their stuff in that-there town, pardner. To show how wimpy I am, I would have put down some grain, thrown a cast net over the feeding bird, and transplanted it over Mayetta way, turkey capital of this region.

Oh, don’t go getting all over me for seemingly basting the Stafford PD. It just so happens it’s one of the more impressive police forces in the entire state -- competitions, demonstrations and their policing prove this out. All I’m saying is when it comes to its handling calls about animals and wildlife, you might want to lean toward animal control first -- though there just might be a sicko or two wondering what an opossum looks like after being aerated by an assault rifle. I’m not serious, though I do sweat calling out the PD troops for animal control.   

It was the bizarre, over-manned response – not to mention an ineffective darting by animal control – that sent Rocky bolting. Bad move. While I’m no expert on bobcats, I have had some experience with them. They’re the feline equivalent of foxes: shy, reclusive and crafty. When they don’t want to be found, there is no finding them, period.

Although three generations into the domesticity realm, the human hubbub had likely sparked what remained of Rocky’s primordial feline furtiveness. That ruled out common tracking and trapping techniques. I was ready to employ some subtler search methods, by recording the voice of Ginny plaintively calling out to Rocky and then amplifying it via speakers. I’d trek through nearby streets, electronically calling out to the holed up cat, waiting for him to poke his head out of a crawlspace opening beneath one of the many Sandy-abandoned houses in Beach Haven West.

Why not the search in the nearby woods? Rocky is a homeboy. Under no circumstances would he be pussyfooting among all spooky trees and sinister shrubberies, where who-knows-what might be lurking among all those leaves and stuff. This bobcat recognizes homes and humanity, not woods and wildlife. Rocky is nothing more than a big domesticated cat.

But back to why I was going a bit undercover to help Ginny. It had been noisily bandied about, during the explosive start to Rocky’s horror show, that, if captured alive, he would be sent to Popcorn Park Zoo. No good could come of that move. Zoo life would be akin to an underserved prison sentence. But, that’s where it stands as of now.

Don’t get me wrong here, either. That zoo is spectacular when it comes to rescuing animals that otherwise have no hope for survival without constant humane care. I full heartedly support Popcorn Park. But even the folks at the zoo recognize the strains placed on animals living within its walls -- as should people at animal control. Ginny’s home is the finest place for Rocky.

Hopefully, this week’s court ruling will return Rocky to Ginny. I’d fully understand a fine for allowing a licensed animal to run loose. Did I mention that Rocky is legally licensed in Stafford?  One might even question how a bobcat running loose is punishable by banishment to Popcorn Park, while legions of loose-running domesticated house cats have an uncontested run of the town. Weird: Take the “bob” out of bobcat and all is apparently kosher.   

FINAL WORD: If Rocky gets condemned to life behind zoo bars, I’m hoping animal/feline-loving folks will climb on the “Save the Bobcat” bandwagon; maybe even donate a little something to help the Rocky cause. I believe building a higher enclosure around Ginny’s house would be a just-fine course of humane action. Maybe Rocky fans could raise $1,000 to raise high the fence beams, making certain Rocky gets back to his happy home.

I’ll keep you posted. 

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