Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bobcat's Death Teaches Local Community a Lesson in Compassion

For months, Texas has been in the grips of a heat wave and drought.  With surface water and food scarcity, wild animals are forced to hunt in populated areas.  Inevitably conflicts arise when people come face to face with their wild neighbors.

In August of this year, one such conflict took place in Murphy, Texas, between homeowners and a bobcat.

A Murphy family was startled to see a bobcat regularly crossing their property around sunset. Concerned that the bobcat might attack their small dog, Pugsly, Mrs. Smith called Murphy Animal Control to report the sightings.  The Animal Control Officer (ACO) to their house and assured Mrs. Smith that if they could leave a trap for the bobcat, and if and when it was captured, the animal would be safely taken to East Texas and released back to the wild.  For several weeks, Mrs. Smith regularly checked the trap as she was concerned that if the cat was trapped and left unattended, he could perish in the heat without food or water. 

One day Mrs. Smith discovered the elusive bobcat in the trap.  Since the regular animal control officer was on vacation, a stand-in animal control officer responded to call.  When the animal control officer arrived, she told Mrs. Smith that if the cat could not be sedated and euthanized, she would be forced to shoot the animal.

Mrs. Smith said she was “never, ever been told that euthanasia was an option.”  Mrs. Smith said she would never have agreed to trap the cat if she had known there was a chance the cat would be destroyed.  She had been told by the regular animal control officer that the bobcat would be transferred to a nice place in East Texas.

A Murphy police officer arrived on the scene as the stand-in animal control officer attempted to sedate the cat.  To the onlooker’s horror, the police officer enraged the bobcat by kicking the cage and yelling at the animal.  When the scared bobcat became aggressive, the police officer shot the bobcat in the head, killing him with one bullet.

Mrs. Smith watched as the two officers carried the trap through her yard with a trail of blood coming from the cage.  Mrs. Smith believed that if the regular animal control officer had been on duty that day, the bobcat would still be alive today.

In hindsight, Mrs. Smith wished she had called us, In-Sync Exotics, to come and pick-up the bobcat.  Sadly, the Smiths’ now live with feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness that the cat was killed on their property. 

When we learned of the tragic event that took place at the Smiths’, we reached out to the Murphy Police Department and offered to give them a tour of our facility so as to educate the force that there are better ways of handling these types of wildlife encounters.

Ricki Hart, our senior In-Sync Exotics volunteer contacted the Murphy Police Department and offered the Chief and his staff a tour of our wild animal sanctuary.  On September 1, 2011, Chief Cox, Lt Barber, Animal Control Officer Drake, and Officer McCarty accepted our tour offer, coming to our facility to learn more about wild bobcats and how they can be safely captured and transported to a wildlife facility, such as ours, so the animals can be safely released back to the wild.

The officers really seemed to enjoy the tour, asking a lot of relevant questions about the cats.  We were thrilled at how responsive the officers were to our suggestions and ideas.
Ricki gave the group an enrichment demonstration with one of our bobcats, Otis, using his favorite smells, fresh coffee grounds!  Otis made a real spectacle of himself by drooling and rolling around in the grounds—changing the officers’ notions that all bobcats are aggressive and out of control—essentially teaching the officers that bobcats are living, breathing animals that have a cute and gentle side to their personality.

The officers also learned about our various training programs such as non-sedation transportation of animals, cat companionship, and enrichment.

Thanks to Ricki Hart, the Murphy Police officers learned conflicts (or chance meetings) between humans and wild animals do not have to end in death. 
Chief Cox was adamant that the police department’s policy will not include shooting a caged animal unless there is imminent risk to people or other animals.  The Chief also agreed to contact us to assist them with the relocation of captured wild animals.

We are pleased to report that the Murphy community is holding a special meeting on how to co-exist with the wild neighbors this week.  Please join us as we, along with other wildlife experts, as we educate the community on how to live in harmony with wildlife this Thursday, (September 8, 2011) at 7:00pm, located at the Murphy City Hall Chambers.

As sad as this event was, it opened a dialogue within the community, as neighbors demanded changes to policies regarding the capture of wild animals plus they wanted to know how to safely and successfully co-exist with wildlife.
In-Sync Exotics is grateful to be a part of this community’s desire to learn more about living with their wild and beautiful neighbors.  We pray that this knowledge will spread to other communities facing similar wildlife encounters!

To learn more about this incident, please visit the Murphy Messenger.com!


  1. I hope they got the name of that police officer and that he has been severely punished for that irresponsible and unwarranted behavior!

  2. I'm happy the officers are being taught proper responsible ways to handle wildlife. That incident was just improper training imo and with the correct resources will never happen again!