Bobcats on the Isle
The first sighting of bobcats on Jekyll Island was in September, 2014. Since then, the family has grown to four as the parents, Boris and Natasha, had two kittens, Rocky and Bullwinkle. Bobcats are native to Georgia. They are carnivores that prey on small mammals, such as rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons. They can also eat birds and reptiles and occasionally kill such larger prey as deer. So they may be a natural method to help control Jekyll’s deer population. Healthy bobcats do not attack humans.
In September, 2017, Jekyll Island Authority (JIA) Wildlife Manager Joseph Colbert received a call reporting an injured bobcat. He and JIA Conservation Director Ben Carswell found Bullwinkle unable to move freely, paralyzed in his hind legs. So they contacted Dr. Terry Norton, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center’s wildlife veterinarian.
Because the Turtle Center has no facilities for mammals, Dr. Norton contacted the veterinarian team at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and moved him there. The team found and removed many ticks, but Bullwinkle had no other apparent breaks or injuries. Although she had never directly observed the condition, Dr. Meredith Persky diagnosed Bullwinkle with tick paralysis. The zoo and JIA teams discussed and agree to the associated treatment, and within 48 hours he began to improve. He was walking and eating by the end of a week. Thanks to the JIA/Jacksonville collaboration, he successfully survived the first documented case of tick paralysis in a bobcat.
Bullwinkle now wears a radio collar from Kiawah Island, South Carolina’s bobcat research program. The tracking could help discover what aftereffects, if any, a bobcat might experience from tick paralysis. It will also give the JIA Conservation team a window into the movements of bobcats on the island and how they might differ between developed and undeveloped land.