Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

This morning, I dressed myself down in my Friday worst and headed out to the Catty Shack Ranch to do some volunteer work.  Armed with a dull machete and as much muscle as my tiny 100-pound frame could muster, I heaved and pulled enough bamboo roots out of the ground to fill a wheelbarrow. While I dug my hands into the footpaths where visitors walk to see our big rescue cats, the cougars took an interest in me from only a few feet away.

There really is nothing too exciting to report here regarding the cougars and me – just a lot of staring…from both sides of the fence. But I’m telling you, there are few things more exhilarating (or should I say terrifying?) than to be going about your business weeding a perfectly cozy little garden and suddenly be interrupted by a ground rattling, earthshaking, rumbling giant tiger roar from only a hundred feet away.

As you can probably tell, I get nervous around these cats. Considering I was alone today in the back of the sanctuary, I couldn’t help but be hyper-aware of all kinds of noises. And I counted each big cat as I continued to work, I guess to convince myself on a constant basis that today is not the day one of these lions or panthers gets loose and eats you…no, not today.

The eeriest part came each time I walked past the black leopards. While one sat perched on its platform watching me with that googly I-want-to-eat-you look in its eyes, another one of the black leopards actually skulked down as low as possible to the ground and stalked me. The one on the platform eyeballing me reminded me so much of the GEICO rescue panther:

After a couple of hours working in the sun and fighting the mosquitos, I decided to take the long way around to the burn pile to dump my weeds and bamboo roots before heading home. Also, I wanted to get a good look at how my handiwork from last month was holding up to its new residents, the ones I couldn’t tell anyone about…

Meet our new bobcats!

Sheba - photo courtesy of Catty Shack Ranch

Van Gogh - photo courtesy of Catty Shack Ranch

Back in early February, I spent a good part of one morning volunteering at the Catty Shack Ranch with a fellow volunteer named Ron. Ron and I painted a newly assembled enclosure and the two of us became privy to some information about a couple of bobcats the Catty Shack was about to take in. At the time, not all of the staff and volunteers at the ranch knew about these two soon-to-be-acquired “re-homed”cats (they’re not considered rescues) so I wasn’t able to share the news.

Sheba and Van Gogh have been adjusting to their new home quite nicely for about a month now. While they were very well taken care of at their last home, an amusement park in South Georgia that is now undergoing some major renovations, there were some unexpected details about these two bobcats that left a few of us curious to see how they would react to being at the Catty Shack.

The first detail is that these beautiful cats had never before touched grass or bare earth with their feet.  Like I said, they have been cared for very well but their previous habitat was made of a cement floor, not bare earth. Sheba and Van Gogh had an incredible set of natural wood and rock platforms on which to climb and play and do all things bobcat, they just missed feeling the actual true ground.  From what one of our directors has said, the two bobcats took to the grass in their new enclosure very cautiously and seemed hesitant about the whole thing, but they’ve quickly adapted to their new home and seem to be happy and comfortable.

The second unexpected detail was about Van Gogh. He is missing an ear, just like Vincent Van Gogh, hence the name. He was brought to the Georgia park that way, with one ear missing but fully capable of being a bobcat – or, as well as a bobcat can be a bobcat in an enclosure.  He and Sheba have been together since day one and there was never a question of splitting them apart. Where one goes, so goes the other.


About Dena

I'm a suburban Clevelander by way of Oklahoma City, by way of North Florida, by way of Southern Maryland, by way of Upper Michigan, by way of Northern Italy, by way of Lower Michigan, by way of Texas. Because of living in so many places, I have something in common with almost everyone I meet. I love reading, writing, and American history (especially reading or writing about American history). I'm interested in culture of place, historical trauma, and writing about the kinds of histories most people don't know about.
This entry was posted in animals, Catty Shack Ranch, community, conservation, endangered species, Jacksonville, nature, outdoors and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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