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Bobcats evolved to kill. At the weight of a super-sized house cat and the length of a small child, and sporting a set of sharp, powerful teeth, they’re born predators. And while they’re almost never dangerous to humans, locking them in your car with you is a quick way to change that.
On Friday, Colorado Parks and Wildlife tweeted an admonishment to a member of the public who decided to rescue an injured bobcat by loading it in her car, near where her child sat. A wildlife officer who arrived later found the animal hiding under a blanket in the back of the vehicle.
“Don’t handle wildlife, especially dangerous wildlife” is a pretty well-established rule of the outdoors, yet its one that people keep breaking. In a high-profile instance in 2016, two Canadian tourists stuck a bison calf that they believed to be orphaned into the back of their rental car. Rangers later euthanized the calf after unsuccessfully attempting to return it to its herd. (And before you blame Instagram or modern society’s disconnect with nature, Yosemite rangers were complaining about visitors trying to kidnap baby deer way back in the 1920s.)
We get it: Empathy is a powerful drug. For animal lovers, especially ones who have a dog or a cat at home, seeing a struggling creature can be too much to bear. But wild animals aren’t dogs or cats. Untrained, would-be rescuers often cause further damage, both to the animal and, occasionally, themselves. In this case, CPW said, the mortally wounded bobcat was too weak to injure the people who took it, but its easy to imagine how the situation could have gone differently.
See an injured animal? Most of the time, your best bet is to call your local or state wildlife agency and let the trained professionals handle it. (If you’re on trail, make a note of where you saw it and call for help when you get service.) For more information, check out the Humane Society’s guide to finding a wildlife rehabilitator and deciding whether a (non-dangerous) animal needs your immediate help.