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Caught in the Act

A Bobcat Breaks in to the Rabbit Enclosure

View of the rabbit enclosure

The rabbit enclosure at Precious Life Animal Sanctuary.

 

Anyone who has visited Precious Life Animal Sanctuary during the last 12 years is well aware of the unique rescued rabbit enclosure. It is one of the largest in the United States and, due to its construction, makes it impossible for any predators to get in or rabbit to get out. The three-quarter acre enclosure is completely netted on top to deter any raptors from entering it.

For more about the enclosure see:
100 Rabbits that No Sanctuary Wanted

It worked well for 11 years. Since the time of its inception, we have not lost one rabbit to any kind of predator.



Overhead netting covered by snow and torn

Snow tears the rabbit's overhead netting.

During the harsh winter of 2017, the netting was torn by the weight of the snow and ice that accumulated on the 2-inch netting. The netting had to be replaced with 4-inch mesh netting to ensure that snow and ice could not accumulate during future heavy snowfalls. This new netting was made of stronger material and it allowed smaller birds, like robins, to get in and out safely. It was a very expensive undertaking and thanks to all of you who generously donated we were able to complete it in one day.

For more photos see:
The Rabbits Need Your Help!

Sometime during March of 2018 we made a gruesome discovery – the remains of a rabbit that had been eaten by a carnivore. In the beginning, it occurred every two weeks and then increased to twice a week. As one can imagine, it was an emotional sight as many of the rabbits are named and have become accustomed to human companionship.


Bobcat outside the rabbit enclosure

Our camera catches the culprit - a bobcat!

We immediately put out humane traps with every kind of bait, but the decapitated rabbits continued to occur. We did all the research by contacting other sanctuaries, Federal Fish and Wildlife agencies, biologists and experts in the field at a State College in Nebraska who all concluded it had to be a weasel or a member of the weasel family (mink, fisher, ferret). All these creatures could easily go through the space of a cyclone fence. Since the decapitation continued to occur even with our best efforts, we contacted professional trappers regulated by the Washington State Fish and Wildlife.

The initial trapper set out soft leg hold traps and trail cameras. As the weeks went by, the rabbits continued to be killed and his cameras showed nothing. In frustration, we hired another trapper who was convinced he could solve the problem. He set up snare traps, soft leg hold traps and cameras as well. He, too, was unsuccessful and his cameras showed nothing. The death of rabbits continued. Since both professional trappers were a failure and we had spent $600 in expenses, we purchased our own trail camera and within 2 days found the perpetrator.


Overhead netting covered by snow and torn

The bobcat climbing out of the rabbit enclosure

As the enclosed picture shows it is a bobcat that stupefied everyone including the “professionals”. Somehow he can wedge his whole body through a 4-inch mesh by holding on the side bars of the enclosure. We have come up with a fix by installing a large, five foot wide skirting of 2-inch wire netting on top of the 4-inch netting which will not allow the bobcat to enter. The fix will mean laying out the wire netting and fastening it with rings and ties. The wire netting is six feet wide leaving one foot of the wire netting to overlap the fence.

We would appreciate any volunteers as the gruesome deaths will continue until we can install this 2" wire netting.


Congratulations are due!


Work party volunteers
A fantastic group of volunteers! L-R: Matt Chaney, Tom & Robin, Ralph Turner, Debra Knutson and Ken Harada.

Our worries of a volunteer turnout on Saturday, June 23, on short notice in a time of need, evaporated with those dedicated committed individuals who showed up. Their efforts, their skills, attention to detail and joyously working together made it possible to complete the task in one day. By reducing the size of the overhead netting, it will prevent the bobcat(s) from entering to decimate our rescued rabbit population.

This was not an easy task as much of the work was accomplished on ladders while reaching overhead in a warm temperature. Afterward, we all enjoyed each others' company over a vegan lunch.

Special thanks to Matt Chaney, Robin and Tom from the Tacoma Humane Society, Debra Knutson, John Mash, and our two faithful volunteers, Elaine and Ken, without whom we couldn't continue.


Table Setting
Three generations of the Myers family. L-R: Josh, Shoshana, Ravi, Ralph and Caryl Turner, Elika and Jim.

 

The conversation was extremely interesting since we had Jim Myers, Co-Founder of Animal Aid Unlimited Sanctuary in India along with members of his family who volunteered on the project. Animal Aid Unlimited is unsurpassed in what they have accomplished in India.

For the animals,
Ralph and and Caryl Turner


The Bobcat is Back!


View of the rabbit enclosure

The bobcat surveying the new two inch wire netting.

The 2" wire netting was a costly and time-consuming installation of a barrier which we were certain would work. The wire netting was 6 feet wide, so we laid the wire netting on top of the overhead netting at a depth of 5 feet, which left a 1-foot overhang. The 1-foot overhang was secured to the chain-link fencing for an additional seal. The remainder of the 5-foot width on top of the overhead netting was secured and sealed off with steel rings and zip ties. The wire netting was laid along the entire perimeter for a total of about 800 linear feet.

We were confident this would keep the bobcat out but to our surprise, the bobcat returned and found its way into the enclosure again. The killings continued unabated. More baffling was how the bobcat was finding its way OUT of the sealed-off enclosure. Additionally, the added weight of the chicken wire was causing the overhead netting to sag. We realized that with winter coming snow would soon collect on the smaller mesh of the chicken wire and once again jeopardize the integrity of the new overhead netting - defeating the purpose of purchasing the larger 4-inch mesh in the first place.



Overhead netting covered by snow and torn

It appears the bobcat was able to walk across the wire skirting to reach the 4" netting.

We considered installing concertina razor wire along the upper perimeter of the enclosure, which may have worked but the material turned out to be too costly and too dangerous for us to install without the proper safety gloves and expensive fastening devices. Simply removing a roll of the razor wire from the box and untangling it turned out to be difficult and dangerous.

At this point, we decided that an electrified wiring was our last and only hope for securing the rabbit enclosure. We had to make it work because there was no Plan B. The installment of the electric wiring had to be precise, placed specifically to keep out this clever bobcat and other climbing predators who might attempt to enter the enclosure from above. There are only three points of a bobcat that are sensitive to electricity: the nose, the tips of its ears and the pads of its feet. The rest of the bobcat is covered with a thick double layer of fur that insulates the cat from electricity, so the wiring had to be placed just high enough and just low enough and at such an angle that would prevent the bobcat from crawling under it or squeezing between the wires without feeling a good jolt.



View of the rabbit enclosure

Inside the fencing the bobcat encounters the two inch wire netting while climbing out of the enclosure. We still don't know how this cat was able to climb around the wire mesh skirting and get out.

Ralph and long-time volunteer, Andy Smith, went to work. No one but those who have racked their brains over how to place the wiring will understand how difficult a task this turned out to be. This was not your ordinary electrified fencing! Fortunately for the sanctuary, there were pre-existing extensions that were installed when the rabbit enclosure was originally built. These extensions happened to be at the right angle and the right distance apart so they were used to support the electrified wiring. On the first day Ralph and Andy made nearly 100 insulators / supports. The following day they mounted them to the existing extensions.

Professional electricians Andrew and Michael Shimer of Electric America volunteered to install the wiring at no cost to the sanctuary. They installed approximately 2300 feet of wiring by looping around the enclosure three times. They fed all three wires into the solar charging unit and to the grounding posts. After many hours of hard work the job was done, and we all held our breaths.


The electric wire held in place with yellow insulators

The electric wires installed along the top of the fence


Two rabbits sitting in the grass

The rabbits are safe and secure again.

Because the bobcat did not strike every day and sometimes 10 days would pass without a killing, we now had to wait to see if the hot wiring would work. Days went by, then weeks without another gruesome death. The killings had finally stopped. After these many months of the horrific rabbit deaths, we finally saw peace and quiet return to the rabbit enclosure with no more decapitated dead rabbits. Though understandably some of us remain a bit nervous, we are becoming more confident with each passing month that the nightmare has finally ended.

We want to thank everyone involved in securing the rabbit's enclosure including the many who provided advice and consultation. If we learned anything from this experience, it is that most people are caring, generous and good when they see that others are in need of their assistance, whether it be their time, money or kind words. This is a tribute to every single one of you who unselfishly and generously contributed to the making of this happy ending. Whether named in this story or not, you know who you are, and our deepest gratitude goes out to each and every one of you.