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How an Arizona fishing trip turned into a rescue mission for a wounded bobcat cub

Tyler Carnival was driving to Arizona's Parker Canyon Lake on Saturday when he came across a young bobcat that needed some help.
Credit: Tyler Carnival

TUCSON, Ariz. — A Saturday morning trip to Parker Canyon Lake in southern Arizona took a detour for Tyler Carnival after he stumbled upon a wounded bobcat cub in need of medical attention. 

The 29-year-old Sierra Vista resident was driving along State Route 83 to spend the day fishing at the lake with his girlfriend before he noticed a "ball of fluff" standing in the road. 

Once they got closer, Carnival realized the fluff was a young bobcat that looked to be severely injured. The animal didn't move or flinch at the presence of the car, indicating to Carnival that it probably needed help.

"We need to stop," he recalls telling his girlfriend. 

Bobcats are known as shy, elusive predators who typically steer clear of humans. But this particular bobcat was in no position to flee as Carnival cautiously approached it.

Carnival said he used a fence post to nudge the bobcat but the animal was too weak and lethargic to react. Carnival then proceeded to try and carefully grab the wounded bobcat. 

"He had some fight left in him. He tried to claw me," Carnival said.  

The bobcat didn't have the strength to fight off Carnival, allowing the motorist to bring the animal back to his car and lay him down on a blanket. 

Carnival and his girlfriend tried calling for help but the remoteness of their location blocked any cell phone service. Carnival knew a store near the lake had a phone, so they proceeded to drive several miles with the sickly bobcat riding as a passenger. 

Credit: Tyler Carnival

Carnival said the animal made little fuss during the car ride. 

"That's the only aggression he showed was a little, low-pitch growl, I don't think he really had enough energy in him to do anything," he said. 

The couple was eventually able to call the Arizona Game and Fish Department, which connected them with someone from the Forest Service who was willing to pick up the bobcat and transport it to a rehabilitation center.

By noon on Saturday, Carnival said the bobcat was placed in a dog crate and on his way toward Tucson to receive medical treatment. 

The animal appears to have sustained fractures to its head and jaw, which could have been caused by a moving car or an attack from a larger animal.

Lisa Bates, executive director of the Tucson Wildlife Center, said the bobcat is in "pretty rough shape" but they're hopeful he will make a full recovery. 

Bates said the bobcat is about 16 weeks old, which is too young to be separated from his mother. If he survives his injuries, then the center will attempt to release him back where he was found and possibly reconnect with his family. 

"He would be too young to survive out there by himself," Bates said.

Carnival said he's thinking about returning to where he found the bobcat and doing some predator calls in order to spot his mother so that the two could potentially be reunited.  

As someone who grew up hunting and spending time outdoors, Carnival said he's come across his fair share of wounded animals. But even when the animal has sharp teeth and claws, he believes it is always his duty to help when the creature is clearly in pain. 

"You take care of the wildlife out here, you don't let the animals suffer," he added.

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