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A wounded bobcat huddles in the cold next to Mark and Brenda Winberg's home on Ugstad Road in Hermantown on Thursday evening. Wildlife rehabilitators successfully removed the 18-pound animal, and it's recovering in the care of a veterinarian. (Photo courtesy of Mark and Brenda Winberg)

Family, police, wildlife rehab workers help save injured Minnesota bobcat

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outdoors Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

When Brenda Winberg heard a "thump" outside of the door of her Hermantown home around 8 p.m. Thursday, she thought the dog wanted in.

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Then she realized the dog was in.

She looked out and saw what she first thought was a lynx. A Google search revealed it was a bobcat, a feline that wildlife experts say is common in the Northland, but not commonly seen.

"Here's a bobcat sitting outside the window looking at me," Winberg said. "It didn't seem to want to go too far from the house. It literally just sat there and camped out and couldn't leave."

Although the bobcat obviously was injured, it wasn't bleeding and didn't seem to be in imminent danger, she said.

When her husband, Mark, arrived home with their three children, they tried calling Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officers, but couldn't reach one at that time of the evening. So they called 911, and Hermantown police officer Kristi Hansen was dispatched to the Winbergs' home on Ugstad Road.

Hansen and Mark Winberg approached from a safe distance. The bobcat didn't appear able to move. Hansen radioed the dispatcher and was told she should shoot the animal. But neither Hansen nor her partner nor the Winbergs were comfortable with that idea, Brenda Winberg said.

"Honestly, it looked healthy other than the fact that it couldn't move its back left leg," she said.

Eventually, the dispatcher called Wildwoods Rehabilitation, a Duluth nonprofit devoted to rehabilitating wounded or sick wild animals.

"They were super-stoked to find out there was this bobcat that they could help rescue," Brenda Winberg said.

Farzad and Peggy Farr, who founded Wildwoods Rehab six years ago, responded and also summoned Leslie Clapper-Rentz, a veterinarian, in case sedation was needed. "A bobcat is nothing to mess with," Peggy Farr said.

When they arrived, they realized the bobcat "was kind of in shock," she said. Using a catchpole, they guided it into a large dog kennel. The Farrs took the bobcat to Deb Eskedahl of Wild and Free, a wildlife rehab agency in Garrison, Minn.

The bobcat, a male that's about a year and a half old, has a concussion, Eskedahl said on Saturday, and has difficulty with its back legs, possibly because of bruising to the spine. But it has no broken bones and, if rehabilitation goes well, could be released back into the wild in two to three weeks, she said.

Peggy Farr said the bobcat probably had been hit by a car. Eskedahl said it weighs 18 pounds, underweight for a 1½-year-old male bobcat. It might have wandered in the area for several days after being hit, unable to hunt for food and gradually weakening, she theorized.

An injured bobcat typically would hide in the woods and die there, she said. "They are so secretive. You don't find them very often."

The Farrs only see a couple of bobcats a year, she said. "They're one of the rarest species to come through rehab."

Farr praised the Winbergs and Hansen for not giving up on the bobcat.

"They didn't take the easy way out," she said. "They sought other solutions."

The Winbergs live on 10 acres and are used to seeing bears in the garbage and deer crossing their land, Brenda Winberg said. But this was their first bobcat. Because Friday was a school holiday, their children --a 13-year-old boy and twin 10-year-old girls -- got to stay up late Thursday night until the bobcat was removed. "All three of them enjoyed watching the bobcat," she said.

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