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Orphaned Bobcat 'Chips' Released into the Wild

By Robyn Ridpath, Assignment Editor
Published On: Apr 22 2013 02:37:38 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 22 2013 02:41:58 PM CDT
Chips the bobcat photo 1

Chips prior to her release into bobcat territory. Photo courtesy of Sierra Wildlife Rescue.

HUMBOLDT, Calif. -

The bobcat kitten who was rescued by firefighters during the Chips Forest Fire in Plumas County last August, was released into bobcat territory in Humboldt County Friday.

"Chips," who gained national attention, was found wandering a long a road near Lake Almanor. At first, firefighters left Chips alone, but Chips followed the sounds of their voices and had trouble opening her eyes due to ash in the air. Chips' eyes were full of soot and ashes and her paws had second-degree burns.

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Photo courtesy of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Center.

Chips is eight months old now, but was rescued at only four weeks old by US Forest Service firefighter Tad Hair, of the Mad River Hand Crew.  The bobcat kitten was taken to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care for medical treatment by veterinarians and rehabbers, and then transferred to a Sierra Wildlife Rescue facility in Placerville.

As a kitten, Chips was thought to be a little too “friendly,” due to necessary handling by humans to treat her extensive injuries. Early concerns were that she would not become wild enough to be released.  However, over months in the company of other bobcats, she became cautious of any human contact, and grew up eating, playing, wrestling and competing with her den mates.

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Chips bobcat as baby

Chips bobcat as baby

Chips bobcat as baby

Chips at four-weeks old.

Prior to her release, Chips and and her den mate Sierra both growled and snarled at their rehabber and lunged at the camera, showing the kind of instinctive wild behavior rehabbers ensure is present in any animal prior to its release.