LAKE ALMANOR (CBS13) – Firefighters mopping up at the Chips Fire discovered a baby bobcat in need of help, and now the kit is being nursed back to health by an animal rescue organization.
While conducting patrol and mop-up operations on the north end of the Chips Fire on Saturday, the Mad River Hand Crew encountered the baby bobcat wandering along the side of the road, alone and dazed.
"It seemed to be confused" said Tad Hair, the Mad River Hand Crew superintendent who spotted the kit. According to Hair, it was the size of a domestic kitten and seemed to have impaired vision, likely from the smoke and ash in its eyes.
"It was walking in circles near a stump," said Hair.
Once they verified that there were no obvious physical injuries on the kit, the crew attempted to walk away, but she followed the sounds of their movements. Each time the crew would stop, she would curl up on Hair's boots, snuggling into his chaps, he said.
"I couldn't just leave her there," said Hair, who chose to name the kit "Chips."
Hair brought Chips to the Incident Command Post, where it was suggested that Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) be called. Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is a non-profit organization in South Lake Tahoe "whose function is to raise, rehabilitate and release orphaned and injured wild birds and animals."
Anna Thompson, a biology professor at Feather River College and a volunteer for LTWC, responded to the command post and arranged for Chips' transport to LTWC headquarters, where professionals experienced in the care of bobcats examined her and treated her injuries.
Chips had her eyes flushed and was also treated for second-degree burns on her paws.
"We are optimistic that once the infection is clear, Chips will regain full vision in both eyes," said Cheryl Millham, the center's executive director.
The next step in the process, Millham said, is to ensure that Chips is exposed to other bobcats in order to learn appropriate behaviors.
"Because she is so very young, she will be sheltered throughout the winter, along with other bobcats," Millham said.
When the staff deems it appropriate, Chips will be released back into the wild.
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