Orphaned bobcat kittens ride the rails to Illinois

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Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 7:01 pm

URBANA, Ill. — Two orphaned bobcat kittens being cared for at the University of Illinois Wildlife Medical Center may have made a long trip north to get there.

The kittens were found in a train car near Tuscola, about 20 miles south of Champaign, said Dr. Julia Whittington, medical director of the clinic in Urbana.

The train was from Louisiana, and the veterinarian suspects the young cats and their mother lived in the car. But the mother apparently wasn’t aboard when the train left Louisiana Tuesday.

The man who found them heard noises from the train car that made him think the cats were domestic kittens, she said.

The kittens are 6 to 8 weeks old and arrived thin and dehydrated but otherwise healthy.

The clinic plans to keep the wild cats a week or two before passing them on to a licensed animal rehabilitator, who will eventually release them into the wild. Until then, veterinary student Nicki Rosenhagen said, staff will do their best to keep the young cats wild.

“The best thing is that we act detached and identify them by their case numbers,” Rosenhagen said. “And it keeps us from getting attached.”

Bobcats are native to parts of Illinois, but they’re naturally shy and fear people, Rosenhagen said.

“They’re going to avoid us at all costs,” she said.

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