Nova Scotia·Video

Bobcats starving in harsh Nova Scotia winter

The harsh winter has been a struggle for several species of wildlife in Nova Scotia, but especially bobcats, says a woman who operates a wildlife rehabilitation centre.

In the last week, 4 starving bobcats have been brought to Hope for Wildlife

Bobcat sniffs the camera

8 years ago
Duration 2:02
Our cameraman put a device in the hold with the bobcat. Evidently it looked tasty.

The harsh winter has been a struggle for several species of wildlife in Nova Scotia, but especially bobcats, says a woman who operates a wildlife rehabilitation centre.

In the last week, four starving bobcats have been brought to Hope for Wildlife. Two have since died.

On Monday morning the group received two more calls asking for help.

"I've never seen such starvation in a population before," said Hope Swinimer, the founder of Hope for Wildlife.

Some of the bobcats have been found sitting on steps near homes, begging for food, she said. Most of them are less than a year old.

"They haven't the skills developed that they need for survival in a winter this harsh," Swinimer said. "They know how to hunt, but they're not good at it, and you compound that with a difficult winter and you end up with these animals starving to death."

Hares, mice, pheasants the usual prey

"They're pretty skinny, pretty weak," said Leigh Cull, an employee at Hope for Wildlife who is working with bobcats for the first time. "They've been going a long time with this hard winter without a lot of food."

Bobcats typically rely on a diet of snowshoe hares, pheasants, and mice said Swinimer.

"Even the mice are difficult, because they're down below the ice. That's what makes it difficult even for all the birds of prey that we're seeing, they're having a hard time getting at the food supply."

The majority of the calls about bobcats are coming from the Annapolis Valley, Swinimer said, because that's where the bulk of the population lives.

But now calls for help are coming from other areas.

"This is really from one end of the province to the other."

Bobcats typically rely on a diet of snowshoe hares, pheasants and mice, which have been hard to come by this winter in Nova Scotia. (CBC)

In the past, this is typically a quiet time of year for the rescue organization. But this winter, the cages are filled with owls, seabirds and porcupines that are all struggling to find food.

Sunday's storm has made a tough situation even worse for many animals, said Swinimer.

"For those that are already weak and near starvation, this is critical for them."

The two surviving bobcats at Hope for Wildlife are being kept in individual areas with minimal human contact.

When they are strong enough, they'll be moved to a new facility on the Hope for Wildlife farm. The bobcat rehabilitation cage is 30 metres long, and will allow the animals plenty of room to climb and roam around as they increase their strength.

"It's perfect for rehabbing animals that you want to keep really wild and totally out of the public eye, totally away from human voices. There's no chance of these animals becoming used to humans in any way now that we've got this unit set up."

The bobcats will be released when spring finally arrives and an abundant food supply is available.

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