USA — Crews battling and cleaning up after Chips Fire, the wildfire that has blazed through almost 73,000 acres in Plumas and Lassen national forests, have come to be ready for anything but nobody was prepared for the helpless bundle of fur they stumbled upon this weekend.
Members of the Mad River Hand Crew were patrolling and conducting mop-up operations near the north end of the fire on Saturday when they found a baby bobcat puttering along the side of the road.
Crew superintendent Tad Hair said the tiny female bobcat, which was about the size of a domestic kitten, seemed dazed and had trouble seeing. She was walking in circles near a stump, he said.
Not wanting to disrupt a wild animal from nature, the crew did a quick assessment of the kit and tried to walk away. But she began to follow the sound of their footsteps, and would curl up on Hairs boots every time they would stop.
They brought her back to the incident command post after finding no grown bobcat tracks in the area. They contacted Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, a nonprofit that rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife and returns them to the wild, and then began to care for her and prepare her for the trip to the shelter, said Laurie Pearson, a public information officer for the Chips Fire.
By then, they had taken to calling her Chips, after the fire.
Public information officer Clare Delaney said Chips was making tiny bobcat yowls as they cared for her, giving her ice chips and special kitten formula, and wiping some of the soot and ash from her fur.
When I wiped her little face off and Laurie was holding her, she just fell right back to sleep, she said. [She reacted like] it was her mom licking her face.
A firefighter transporting her to the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care shelter flushed Chips eyes out on the way over, Pearson said. A veterinarian at the shelter found that Chips had an infection in her eyes, and after flushing them out again, and administered some ointment.
Veterinarians found that Chips also suffered second-degree burns on all four of her tiny paws, Pearson said. Until her paws are fully healed, Chips will rest on a soft bed, fattening up on six pulverized mice and more kitten formula.
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care executive director and co-founder Cheryl Millham said she is confident Chips will regain full vision in both eyes once the infection is cleared. She said Chips is thriving and recovering nicely at the shelter.
Chips will eventually socialize with other bobcats before she is returned to the wild for good, Millham said.
Delaney said the crew became very attached to Chips.
She was so sooty and dirty when they found her and they were worried because she was just walking in circles and was probably dehydrated, she said. But I think shes got a really good start.
Mad River Hand Crew Superintendent Tad Hair holds up Chips shortly after rescuing her. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.Public information officer Laurie Pearson feeds Chips after her rescue. Photo courtesy of U.S. Forest Service.