Chips the Baby Bobcat

In August of 2012, the “Chips” fire broke
out on the Plumas National Forest. 1300 firefighters were brought in to help bring it under control. In some places the fire was beneficial, but in others it
caused a lot of damage and not only to trees. An eight-week old baby bobcat became separated from its mother
and found its way to a firefighting crew. After waiting an appropriate amount of time to
see if the mother would return, Tad Hair and his crew brought the bobcat to
a Forest Service work center. Soon she was dubbed “Chips”. The Forest Service then contacted a local wildlife rehabilitation facility. And we got the bobcat actually here about 8:30 that night. And then we got a call in to our vet
and told him that we needed him, that we had a baby bobcat that needed to
be seen and he was here by 10:00. The biggest problem that Chips had was the
second degree burns on all four paws. She was also dehydrated, so the first thing that Dr. Willits did, he gave her some sub-cutaneous fluids and also she had the problem
with her eyes because of the smoke and the heat, so he rinsed out her eyes, put some ointment in there,
and overall her eyes aren’t the problem or the concern. It was her paws, but because it was only second
degree, it could have been a lot worse. You want to show your paws? Let’s see what your paws look like. That’s so good. You’re such a good girl. Tom and Cheryl Milham are the founders of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. This non-profit organization rehabilitates abandoned and/or injured wild animals Our motto is ‘giving mother nature a helping hand’ and it’s
giving these animals a second chance at life. For over 35 years the Milhams and their volunteers have
returned thousands of animals to the wild. Animals come to the facility from a variety of sources and it
is important people understand if an animal needs human assistance. The first thing to do is to watch to make sure mom’s not around. That’s by far the most important thing. Leave it
alone, step back and watch literally for 3-4 hours. If it’s there for more than four hours and no mom
has come about, then that baby probably needs help. Don’t try to raise these animals yourself. There are rehab groups all in the state of California. Get it to people that are trained and know what they are doing. If you want to learn, take a class and join a group. Every bird or animal that comes into Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care has
one goal, and that’s getting released back to the wild. While Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is rehabilitating Chips, we’re working hard to rehabilitate the land post-fire. The mixed conifer forest where Chips was rescued is a fire adapted system, and a lot of our management actions currently are to
restore that system to its historic condition. Chips is part of that system, so hopefully her rehabilitation goes
well and she will be able to return to it. Making sure these animals don’t habituate to humans is
one of the most important and difficult tasks. That’s the tough part, because right now she needs that loving attention. She’s a baby, she needs to be cared for at
this age. She needs the comforting. Once Dr. Willits says she is ready to be out on her own, she will
be on her own, and we’ll put things out for her to play with, we’ll give her live animals to kill because that’s what she’ll be doing
in the wild, but there will be no more human contact. The decision on when to release Chips will be left to the
rehabilitators and the California Department of Fish and Game. We’d like to see Chips back on the Plumas. It will depend on the habitat availability in the
burned area where she was rescued from. In time, Chips will be released into a suitable
environment, hopefully close to where she was found. We obviously try to get them back in the same
region, the same area where they come from, where there’s good habitat, where there are other bobcats and where she
will be able to live out a normal, healthy life. Whatever her life expectancy would be. Chips was released onto the Lassen National Forest.

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