A bobcat that was repeatedly spotted around Butte over the past week or so was caught in a backyard Monday evening and was euthanized on Tuesday, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Game Warden Regan Dean.
Dean said he was as sad as anyone about the female bobcat’s fate.
"My hope was that we'd go up there and we'd feed it and it would be okay,” Dean said Tuesday. “I already had a spot picked out to release it."
But after he brought the bobcat to FWP’s wildlife laboratory in Bozeman on Tuesday morning, Dean said it became clear that euthanizing the animal was the only option.
"There was no way it was going to survive,” he said. “It was the humane thing to do."
Keri Carson, the FWP wildlife veterinary technician who examined the bobcat Dean brought her, agreed.
"Our initial plan wasn't to euthanize it," Carson said. "We wanted to check the condition of the bobcat."
But after she anesthetized the animal, Carson said she "determined it was emaciated beyond the point of being able to survive" and was in "such poor condition that if we were to have relocated it out of town she wouldn't have survived."
Carson said the bobcat was one of a number of animals that have had a hard time surviving the harsh and snowy winter.
"We've had a ton of animals in just awful body condition this year," Carson said.
She suspects the bobcat came into Butte in an attempt to "eke out a living" but was unable to "get enough nutrition." A necroscopy revealed "loads of parasites" in the animal's gastrointestinal tract, Carson said.
Dean said the bobcat’s capture occurred near the intersection of Emma and 1st streets, not far from the Butte Civic Center.
According to Dean, Butte-Silver Bow animal control and police were already on the scene when he arrived around 6 p.m. Monday. He said the female bobcat was hiding under a car, then ran across a yard and about 8 feet up a tree, even though it could have gone higher. After animal control captured the cat with the loop of a catchpole, Dean said he put it in a dog cage that he had “all ready" for keeping the bobcat in, when it was caught.
The wildlife laboratory wasn’t able to immediately accept the animal, so Dean kept it in the cage on his porch overnight and fed it moose burger.
He said it was evident from the cat’s condition and from reports of sightings around town that something was wrong.
"I'd heard people could pull right up to it and it wouldn't run off,” Dean said. "It obviously wasn’t getting anything to eat either."
Carson said the decision to euthanize the animal was hard but that the alternative — releasing the animal into deep snow — would have been "setting her up for failure."