There's nothing as important or endearing as a mother's love, even if the mother in this case takes the form of a veterinarian in a urine-soaked animal costume. In an effort to raise abandoned bobcat kittens without exposing them to the harmful influence of human interaction, one wildlife rehab facility in California has developed an innovative method of playing mom to them -- by looking and smelling as much like the real thing as possible.Since 1994, animal experts at the Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center (WERC) in Morgan Hill have been honing a groundbreaking technique aimed at teaching abandoned bobcats the hunting, foraging, and survival skills they'll need in the wild, all in a manner that limits their interactions with humans. To ensure that kittens don't become habituated with people once they are released back into their native habitats, vets go to great lengths to play a convincing role as mom.
WERC's handlers first get rubbed down in herbs to conceal their human scent before donning a specially designed bobcat mother costume. A dash of bobcat urine adds a convincing bouquet to satisfy the kittens' discriminating sense of smell.
The surrogates are also advised to act as bobcat-like as possible at all times by staying quiet and only walking on all fours, just like mom would -- that way the kittens can be fed, cleaned, and played-with without learning the human secret behind their seemingly perfect parentage. After all, WERC's priority is to ready the young animals for a life in the wild as nature had intended.
Currently, WERC is caring for three young bobcat kittens found lost or abandoned by their mothers, working to keep them as nourished, and well-cared for as possible while at the same time keeping their precious instincts intact. Once the kittens have reached about nine months of age, they will be reintroduced to the habitat at the place they were discovered.
It may seem like thankless work, but that's only if you think the sight of adorable, doe-eyed bobcat kitten faces isn't reward enough.
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