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Healthy again after months of rehab, Northland bobcat returns to the wild

An injured bobcat found outside a Hermantown home in January was released back into the wild Sunday afternoon in the wooded area where it was presumed to roam.

Bobcat returned to wild
A bobcat that was found injured in January was released back to the wild on Sunday in Hermantown. (Trudy Vrieze)

An injured bobcat found outside a Hermantown home in January was released back into the wild Sunday afternoon in the wooded area where it was presumed to roam.

The bobcat, found outside the patio door of Brenda and Mark Winberg where it lay for hours as the family tried to find it help, has spent the past four months with Wild and Free, a wildlife rehab agency in Garrison, Minn. It had neurological problems because of a concussion and spinal cord injuries and couldn't move its back legs for some time. It's assumed the bobcat was hit by a car. At Wild and Free, the cat received medication and other care, said Katie Baratto, a veterinarian there.

"When he came in he could not use his back legs; neurologic problems take a long time to heal, if they are going to," she said. "He has a hitch in his gait, but he was catching wild squirrels and chipmunks in his cage so he has full mobility back and his ability to hunt."

Had the bobcat not been able to do that, she said, he would have been taken to a wildcat sanctuary. Wild animals are generally released in the area where they were found because they are familiar with the territory, Baratto said.

The Winbergs and Hermantown police officer Kristi Hansen spent considerable time trying to find the right route to save the bobcat in January, both rejecting a dispatcher's advice to shoot it, because there was no visible blood. The family is pleased to see it released back onto its property, Mark Winberg said.

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"The option for us to shoot him wasn't really an option," he said. "To see him get back out there ... it's so rare to see a bobcat that close up. It's pretty cool."

The feline has probably gained 10-15 pounds from when it was caught, Baratto said. It was in shock and underweight at roughly 18 pounds in January when caught by Farzad and Peggy Farr of Wildwoods Rehabilitation of Duluth.

Baratto said the rehab agency receives only about one bobcat a year -- usually a kit -- despite the commonness of such animals in the area.

"A lot of them are here, but they are so solitary," she said. "They tend to not interact with people."

The cat bolted fairly quickly from the kennel it was being held in on Sunday when released at the edge of a trail, said Holly Henry, a volunteer for Wildwoods.

"He was spunky. He didn't hesitate," she said.

Henry said people had tears in their eyes, knowing that the cat could have died rather than being rescued.

"It just landed on the right doorstep," she said.

Related Topics: HERMANTOWN
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