Wildlife Rehab Center of the North Coast's newest patient is a bobcatELSIE - A new patient is recuperating at the Wildlife Rehab Center of the North Coast - one that requires a bit more cautious care than the usual menagerie of seabirds, owls and fawns that Sharnelle Fee takes care of at the facility south of Astoria.

An injured adult male bobcat arrived earlier this month, and Fee has rigged up a system involving two large dog crates in order to feed and care for the cat by herself.

"They're quite challenging to work with," Fee said. "It's like working with a running chain saw."

Still, she said she was glad the cat was acting wild again.

He arrived at the rehab center "passive and half-dead" after residents of Trask River Road in Tillamook County notified Fee that there was an injured bobcat in their yard, she said. The bobcat had a puncture wound and a broken bone in his right foreleg. An X-ray of the area showed specks of metal. These symptoms suggested to Fee and Brad Pope, a veterinarian with Bayshore Animal Hospital, that the bobcat was suffering from a gunshot wound.

Because his injury prevented him from hunting, the animal was also emaciated. He weighed 13 pounds, whereas a normal cat would weigh between 25 and 30 pounds. The smoothed ends of the bone that had broken suggested that the animal had been injured for awhile.

But after steady meals, vitamins and antibiotics to clear up an infection, the bobcat was strong enough to undergo surgery at Pope's office last week to set his leg. Pope wired the broken bone together, and inserted two metal pins to hold it in place.

"By the next day, you could see his attitude turn around," Fee said of the bobcat. "He was attacking the door (of the cage) yesterday; we like to see that."

The cat was still dragging his paw around after the surgery, but had the energy to attempt to warn visitors away with a low, rumbling sound.

He is currently being confined to the two attached dog cages to ensure that he doesn't reinjure his leg, but will be moved to a larger enclosure in Fee's barn in a couple weeks. Once Pope removes the pins in the cat's leg, Fee and her staff of volunteers will add tree limbs and other obstacles to the enclosure so the bobcat can run around and regain its strength.

He had a previous eye injury, and Fee said they will take him to an eye specialist to see if removing some of the scar tissue could help the cat regain some vision in that eye.

She plans to keep the bobcat at the center for the winter, and release him in the spring when he is healthy again and food is easier to find.

For the moment, the animal is dining on quail, mice and rabbit with occasional beef steaks and supplements of calcium and vitamins.

If hunters have leftover venison or elk meat, the center would welcome any donations, Fee said. Currently, she buys all the meat with donated funds.

She is also caring for two bobcat cubs who were found without their mother. They'll stay at the center for the winter as well, though in a separate enclosure from the adult cat.

"With habitat shrinking in Oregon, and more interactions with people occurring, it shows how predator species really struggle to survive," said Fee.

For more information on the center or how to help, call (503) 338-0331.