On Thursday, I had the opportunity to write a news story that us ink-stained wretches dream about. As “mistaken identity” tales go, it was a true whopper. The story was off-beat and unexpected. In fact, I’d never heard of anything like it.
If you’re the one person in Maine who hasn’t heard the story yet, here’s the gist: In the middle of the night, a woman struck a cat with her car. Understandably upset, she scooped up the large kitty and headed off to find help. Upon her arrival in downtown Bangor, she learned that the cat was not of the “Here kitty, kitty” variety. Instead, it was of the “I eat housecats and small vermin” variety.
It was a bobcat.
Now, in the aftermath of the incident and our story, many of our commenters took the woman to task for a number of things, including the fact that she didn’t immediately recognize (in the dark) that the injured animal was in fact a wild beast.
That’s a bit unfair to her, I figure. Consider: Not too long ago, we ran a photo in this newspaper of a decidedly monstrous housecat that had been mistaken for something wild. And a few years back, newspapers across the state (and the world) ran photos of a “mystery beast” that turned out to be a plain-old dog.
Still, the comments weren’t surprising.
What was surprising, at least to me, was the result of a poll that we ran in conjunction with the hitchhiking bobcat story. Readers were asked “Have you ever tried to rescue an injured wild animal?”
Of the 536 respondents, 51 percent said that they had done just that.
So much for the opinion of so many online commenters who dismissed the woman’s act as foolhardy … or worse.
Now, I suspect that many of the folks who said that they’d tried to play Dr. Kildare with a nearly killed deer weren’t talking about the kind of wild animals that are apt to scratch your face off and eat your child.
Instead, I imagine that most of the affirmative votes came from people who tried to keep their own cats from eating wounded birds, or who tried to nurse songbirds back to health after they nosedive into picture windows.
Of course, I might be wrong. I’ve got one co-worker, who will remain nameless, who said that she once tried to make a mortally wounded squirrel’s final hours more comfortable by tucking it into a box filled with blankets. A note: Eventually my co-worker realized that a squirrel’s idea of comfort probably didn’t involve being cooped up in a box … and the squirrel probably had very little experience sleeping on blankets. My co-worker gently placed the squirrel in some bushes, where it eventually expired.
In an unrelated matter (which I simply can’t resist including here) I’ve also got a co-worker who fishes a lot, and who admits to carrying a pair of wire-cutters with him so that if he runs across freshly road-killed squirrels, he’s able to snip of the critter’s tail, which he then uses to create fishing flies.
If you find this hard to believe, walk into your local fly-tying emporium: You’ll surely find a rack or two of squirrel tails, some of which are dyed in quite gaudy colors.
I’ve yet to ask that co-worker whether he’s got any experience with hitchhiking bobcats, or whether he’s ever snipped the tail off a squirrel that was simply numbed, and not completely mushed.
The next time I see him, I’ll be sure to ask. And perhaps I’ll end up with another story to tell.