BLACK JACK, Mo. (AP) — A baby bobcat found in eastern Missouri and being nursed back to health might be mistaken for an ornery feral cat — until you hear her roar.
The animal was found in July outside the YMCA in Potosi, scrawny and with her mother nowhere around. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Missouri Department of Conservation trapped her and took her to a St. Louis County facility run by the Bi-State Wildlife Hotline of Missouri and Illinois.
Though she weighs just 7 pounds and is 3 months old, the bobcat, now vaccinated and de-wormed, makes noises that group founder Angel Wintrode finds startling.
"If you close your eyes, you'd think there was a full-grown lion in there," Wintrode said of the sounds coming from the bobcat's enclosure. "She's making noises you wouldn't think would be possible from such a tiny, adorable thing."
The animal growls, hisses, bares her teeth and arches her back. Caretakers said that's a good thing — they don't want the bobcat to get comfortable around people.
"She knows she's not supposed to be around us, and that's exactly how it should be," she said.
She never required bottle-feeding and she's never fed by hand; heavy-duty grippers deliver her food.
Her diet is all raw meat such as mice, quail, rabbits, turkey necks and baby chicks, as well as chicken hearts and livers. She needs the organ meat, the fur and the bones. She's likely to move onto live prey soon.
She already has the hunting instinct and throws dead mice around before pouncing to eat.
Missouri's bobcats once lived mostly in the Ozarks and far southeastern Missouri, but have moved in recent decades west and north, according to the conservation department. Despite some habitat loss, the agency said the bobcat population seems stable.
Baby bobcats usually are born in the spring, and typically stay with their mother until at least the fall.
The bobcat found near Potosi is expected be ready to be released back into the wild in about a month, probably near where she was found. The conservation department will make the decision on where and when, Wintrode said.