CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — Someone broke into Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, stole a bobcat and tried to take a bald eagle.
According to Mark McKnight, the center’s president, it happened after their regular staff left for the day on Monday and before dawn Tuesday morning. The enclosures for both animals showed signs of a break-in. He says the bald eagle appears to be unharmed but the bobcat is missing and presumed stolen for the illegal exotic pet trade.
The center is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the return of their bobcat.
McKnight says bobcats are solitary and normally do not approach people. However, their bobcat is non-releasable and habituated to humans. While they assume she was stolen, they are concerned someone may release her into the wild.
According to experts, she would have difficulty successfully surviving in the wild and her survival is at stake. She is not a domestic animal and while she has been imprinted on humans, she does not behave like a house cat and is not suitable as a pet. Holding wildlife such as a bobcat in captivity is also illegal under Tennessee law.
They filed a police report and have consulted with various regulating bodies as well as the National Park Service who patrol the federal land surrounding our property. They have some evidence including photo and video footage. McKnight says they are assisting in every way possible with the police investigation.
If you have any information on who may have taken her or if you have seen a bobcat, contact staff member Taylor Berry who cares for this animal at 423-309-9969.