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Outside » Natural World

The Bobcat Business

A tale of wildcat rehab—and catching jackrabbits with a chair tied to a Jeep

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Editor's note: Last week, we published an online-only story titled "Bobcat Bludgeoning Raises Concerns," detailing the efforts by a local vet to change the rules around wildlife euthanasia. Right about that same time, Jim Anderson filed this story, which had a far happier ending.

Way back in the mid '50s I was living in the Jones House in Bend, on the Hollinshead place. My pal and great helper in punishing raptor killers, Oregon State Police Officer Avon Mayfield, called and asked if I would go with him to collect a bobcat held illegally in a sporting goods store on Franklin Ave.

Bobcats may look cute, but they do not make good pets and should be left in the wild. - JIM ANDERSON
  • Jim Anderson
  • Bobcats may look cute, but they do not make good pets and should be left in the wild.

The poor creature was an awful sight, shivering in a cage just big enough to hold a house cat, just inside the door to the sporting goods store. I immediately noticed someone had removed its claws, and it was not in a healthy state.

Mayfield was always polite, even with the worst wildlife violators, and this time was no different. He patiently informed the store owner why he was there and why the owner was in violation of state law prohibiting the holding of said bobcat. He then cited the owner and told him we were leaving with the poor animal.

Dean Hollinshead helped me build a wood-and-wire holding cage, 12 feet long and 6 feet high. I placed the bobcat in the pen with some big rocks and bitterbrush and waited for it to learn how to kill jackrabbits and cottontails by batting them with its naked paws—which took a lot of jackrabbits.

Luckily, the Bureau of Land Management had just seeded a new planting of crested wheat grass on its holdings on Powell Butte. My friend Ed Park and I had great fun netting live jackrabbits at night in those fields.

To capture these live rabbits, I tied a chair to the front end of my old flatbed Jeep. Park didn't like this arrangement for catching jackrabbits, but I impressed on him that the Jeep was mine, and he was the helper—so he sat in the chair with a quick-release seat belt and a salmon net attached to a long pole.

A jackrabbit, when pursued, goes through a series of escape feints that most of the time work. Eagles, coyotes and such will get as close as they can, and just about the time they have the jackrabbit in their clutches, it stops in its tracks, makes a right or left turn or heads in the opposite direction.

I'd follow the jackrabbit and wait until it got those escape sequences out of its system. Then I'd quickly close in on it. Park would reach out with the net, snatch the rabbit off the ground and twist the net like he was trapping a butterfly. I'd come to a screeching halt, jump out, grab the jack by the hind legs and drop it into a cage. When the cage was full then we'd head home and call it a night.

One night I was having a difficult time getting close enough to the jacks for Park to net 'em, so I released Park's seat belt and said, "I wanna' try something."

He gave me a dirty look and said, "You damn well better be careful what you do to me!"

On the next jack I got as close as I could, waiting for Park to raise the net, and then jammed on the brakes. He flew off the seat right on top of the jackrabbit and had it rolled up in a ball when I got to him.

After I got Park separated from the netted jackrabbit and put the jack in the holding cage, I was headed for the driver's seat when Park stopped me with a firm grip on my arm and said, "I got new rules, Jim. This time YOU do the netting and I'll do the driving." The look on his face convinced me it was going to be that way, and sure enough, as I was reaching out to net the next jack, he hit the brakes and I was launched into thin air at the top of Powell Buttes.

I got the jack in the net, just as I hit on my shoulder and rolled up in the net. As Park was getting me untangled he said, "You OK, nothing busted?" I said I was OK, and he laughed in delight: "Oh, I love this! You keep netting and I'll keep driving..."

It took almost a year for that animal to learn how to kill the rabbits and hares with just its bare paws by batting them into unconsciousness, but I eventually released it, healthy and hardy, near Cougar Mountain in Lake County.

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