PLACERVILLE (AP) — A Northern California animal rescue group is trying to help an orphaned bobcat kitten with a problem: She's too nice.
The friendly baby bobcat was only a few weeks old and had burned paws and infected eyes when fire crews found her in August while battling a 75,000-acre fire in the Plumas National Forest. They named her Chips, after the wildfire.
Volunteers at the Sierra Wildlife Rescue in Placerville now are trying to toughen the kitten up, with plans to release her back into the wild next spring.
As part of her training regimen, Chips has had to start chasing down her own mice and rabbits for meals and stop sleeping on a soft bed like the one she'd grown accustomed to while she was receiving medical treatment.
She's also been introduced to two male bobcats, Tuffy and Sierra, that hiss and bare their claws at humans.
"If you have a friendly bobcat in the wild, that's not going to work," said volunteer Jill Tripoli, who squirts the kitten with a water bottle if she tries cuddling up to humans.
The firefighters who found Chips wandering in circles on Aug. 25 noticed right away that she was affectionate. She followed them as they went about their work and nuzzled the boots of a hand crew member every time they stopped.
They tried to locate a female bobcat searching for its baby, but had no luck and ended up taking the kitten to a Lake Tahoe animal shelter. She transferred to Placerville last month.
Forest Service spokesman, John Heil, said the bobcat was lucky to have survived given how intense the flames were in the area she was found.
"How it survived with the fire passing through is miraculous," he said.