Trapped 'bobcat' in North turns out to be big cat |Richard_F||05/27/04 at 16:54:06|richard_f|xx|0||Trapped 'bobcat' in North turns out to be big cat native to Canada

By BILLY ROBINSON, T&D North Correspondent

NORTH -- We residents of North identify closely with the local schools' Eagle mascot, but this past weekend a much rarer critter captured our curiosity and compassion.

It all began when North Maintenance Supervisor Carl Tittle went to the town's parts yard, located directly under the North water tower, to retrieve some material and ran into what he thought was the biggest bobcat he'd ever laid eyes on. As it turns out, the cat was actually a Canadian lynx.

"We have been doing some cleaning up of brush and debris in the parts yard. There were several holes under the 6-foot-high cyclone fence surrounding the yard, so I pushed some dirt into them and filled them up earlier in the week," Tittle said.

"As I retrieved some parts from the eastern end of the lot, I caught a glimpse of movement several feet away from me. I looked up to see the biggest bobcat of my life. Knowing that most bobcats are very wild animals and could become aggressive if feeling threatened, I quickly cleared the area."

Tittle alerted Neal and Christopher Livingston of Livingston & Company, which borders the parts yard.

"We kept a check on the big cat over the weekend and noticed that he had been feasting on birds and probably rodents from a nearby field," Chris Livingston said. "When Tittle closed up the holes under the fence, the bobcat had apparently become trapped inside the fenced-in yard. He was much bigger than any bobcat I had ever seen. Other people I showed the big cat to stated the same thing ... that he was a very massive size for a bobcat."

Livingston said the animal seemed to be very tired.

"We could approach to within a few feet of him before he would become aroused. This is very strange behavior for such a wild animal," he said.

Over the weekend, news began to spread of the large cat's presence in the town. Residents cautiously drove by in hopes of getting a glimpse of the animal. A few people got up the nerve to approach the fence for a closer look.

The scene on Monday, May 3, in North was like something from Marty Stouffer's "Wild America" television series. North Police Chief Mark Fallaw had contacted various county and state agencies about the animal, but he was informed that it would have to be exterminated if those agencies handled the situation. Those officials felt that, due to the cat's unusual behavior, he was possibly rabid or diseased.

By that time, several residents, along with Tittle and North Police Department personnel, had become involved in the effort to relocate the big cat to a suitable wildlife location instead of the alternative of simply killing it.

Bill O'Cain, owner of O'Cain's Exotic Animals Zoo located at 6096 North Road near Wolfton, was notified by Fallaw. O'Cain soon arrived on scene with a large, pole-type fishnet and a wire cage trap.

I was asked by O'Cain to help him trap the cat. Always ready for an exciting adventure, I held my camera in one hand and grabbed one of the carrying straps on top of the trap with the other hand as O'Cain grabbed the second strap.

We cautiously made our way to within 10 yards of the animal, which was crouched under some brush in the northeastern corner of the cyclone fence. After we put the cage down, O'Cain raised its trap door. He then turned to me, explaining that if things went wrong, it was going to be every man for himself. My eyes got a little wider as I realized the point he was making.

With due caution, we approached to within five yards of the animal, and O'Cain proceeded on to within two yards of it, clearing out an area along the fence in which to place the trap.

I handed the trap to him, and he placed it within a mere yard of the big cat, with the trap door facing it. O'Cain backed out, then gently poked the cat from the opposite side of the trap with the end of the fishnet pole. The cat took off and, in textbook style, entered the cage. The trap door closed, trapping him inside.

As we grabbed the handles to carry the animal out, he growled at us several times, showing us his sharp teeth and his razor-sharp, large claws. Little did he realize that we were his rescuers intent on removing him from harm's way into an environment where he could roam wild and free.

Upon further inspection of the big cat, O'Cain determined that it did not appear be diseased or rabid, only worn down and weary due largely to his advanced age.

The biggest surprise came Tuesday when Orangeburg veterinarian Wayne Harley identified the cat as a Canadian lynx, which is not native to South Carolina. Harley believes someone brought the lynx to the area and either let it go or it escaped.

Noting that there are laws that prohibit him from permanently keeping such an animal at his small zoo, O'Cain said he plans to nourish the lynx back to good health, then arrange for it to be placed at Riverbanks Zoo or another large zoo.

T&D Correspondent Billy Robinson can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 803-247-5737.

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