Posts Tagged With: bobcat

Dallas Zoo to close historic Cat Row, says goodbye to Texas cats

Bobcat Rufus was once a wild cat who was rescued by the Dallas Zoo in 2001.

As we look to continue building updated, naturalistic habitats, we’re closing our oldest animal exhibit located within ZooNorth – Cat Row, featuring our Texas felines.

Mountain lion Apollo will remain with his best pal Lakai in their new Bridgeport, Texas home.

Our male bobcat, male and female ocelot pair, and male cougar pair will all be relocated to other respected institutions ahead of the closure. The zoo will host a goodbye weekend on Saturday, Sept. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 1, so guests can say farewell to the beloved animals.

The habitat was originally built in the late 1930s with Federal Works Project Administration (WPA) labor and funding, and Centennial bond money. Over the decades, it has undergone renovations and design improvements, but we’re ready to say goodbye to the small piece of history.

“As one of the nation’s top zoos, we pride ourselves on continuously evolving and building bigger and better habitats for our animals,” said Harrison Edell, Dallas Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Operations and Welfare. “Cat Row doesn’t reflect Dallas Zoo’s progressive philosophy of care. There’s no doubt our cats are well cared for, and live enriched lives here – their home just doesn’t represent our growth and vision, and it’s time for change.”

The five cats will begin moving to their new homes over the next month. The first feline to leave, bobcat Rufus, has an interesting history at the zoo. He was rescued as a young, wild cat in 2001 after he killed three of the zoo’s small antelopes, known as dik-diks.

The Texas Department of Health recommended he be euthanized to test for rabies, but zoo officials urged that the zoo was a great isolation facility, which meant the risk for infection was low. Estimated to be 17 years old, Rufus leaves the Dallas Zoo on Sept. 26 and will retire to the Southwest Wildlife Conservation center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Ocelot Joaquin and his mate Milagre will stay together at the Audubon Zoo.

On Oct. 6, male and female ocelots, Joaquin and Milagre, will head to the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Joaquin and Milagre have welcomed two babies together at the Dallas Zoo as part of a pairing through the Ocelot Species Survival Plan. The duo will remain together and continue to provide their valuable genes to the SSP through their breeding recommendation.

As early as late October, bonded mountain lion males, Apollo and Lakai, will move to the nearby Center for Animal Research and Education (CARE) in Bridgeport, Texas, where they’ll open a new habitat that’s nearly three times the size of their current home. Both cats were rescued as cubs in Canada and are estimated to be around 7 years old. They were brought together at the Dallas Zoo in 2010 and have been inseparable ever since.

“Moving these amazing cats wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s what’s best for them. We’re confident they’ll live safe, healthy lives in their new homes,” said Edell. “We want nothing more than for our guests to fall in love with wildlife in the right setting, and to support us as we find ways to create a better world for animals.”

As we build out our master plan for ZooNorth, we’ll initially use Cat Row as a much-needed extension to our outdoor event space. The zoo’s annual Halloween Nights event returns Oct. 26-29. Then coming to ZooNorth on Nov. 17, the park will transform in the evening into Dallas Zoo Lights Presented by Reliant, with nearly one million twinkling lights and illuminated displays, entertainment, arts and crafts, and holiday-themed drinks and snacks. The inaugural Dallas Zoo Lights Presented by Reliant spans 33 nights, through Jan. 2.

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Zoo is forever home to bobcat Rufus

It’s a story that hasn’t been told in more than 13 years. (If you know it, here’s an update; if you don’t, you can share this little piece of history with your family and friends.) Bobcat Rufus had a long journey to get here — one that saved his life and gave him a forever home.

Rufus' photo on the cover of Dallas Zoo's ZooKeeper magazine in 2001.

Rufus’ photo on the cover of Dallas Zoo’s ZooKeeper magazine in 2001. Dallas Zoo/Cathy Burkey

In spring 2001, the wild bobcat made headlines after he killed three of our small antelope, known as dik-diks. Stories began running nationwide on the “unwanted zoo visitor,” and the media even updated the public daily on attempts to capture the elusive bobcat.

At one point, Dallas County Animal Control employees hid in bushes waiting for Rufus to appear, armed with tranquilizer guns. Finally, months later, the wily fellow was snared in a trap on August 21, 2001.

However, his fate was unclear. The Texas Department of Health recommended he be euthanized to test for rabies, but Zoo officials argued that the Zoo was a perfect isolation facility, which meant the risk for infection was low.

We prevailed, and Rufus was given a place to live out his life with daily meals, medical care, enrichment items and a lot of attention.

“We’re all animal lovers at the Zoo, and these cats have to eat in the wild. Unfortunately, he chose to prey on our animals, but he didn’t know better,” said Lora Baumhardt, mammal supervisor. “Prey is

Rufus today, now estimated to be 14  years old.

Rufus today, now estimated to be 14 years old. Dallas Zoo/Ashley Allen

prey, and if it was easily accessible to him, I don’t blame him for getting that.”

Now estimated to be about 14, Rufus is in very good health for his age. “We’ve been able to provide a good life for him here, as opposed to him being euthanized back then. I feel good about it,” Baumhardt said.

Staying out of the headlines today, Rufus lives what his keepers say is a spoiled life. His favorite treat is licking condensed milk out of a spray bottle, and he eats a special rabbit meal on Tuesdays.

“If we never caught him, he probably would have passed away by now in the wild, because he’s 14, and they don’t generally live that long,” Baumhardt said.

She says the sneaky little guy will never play with his favorite green ball in public, but when his keepers return in the morning, it’s always in a different spot than where they left it the day before.

Living out his life in a safe environment is all we ever wanted for Rufus.

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