CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Officials at a Chattanooga nature center say someone stole their bobcat Evi – and they think she was taken for the illegal exotic pet trade.
According to Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center’s president Mark McKnight, it happened sometime after their regular staff left for the day Monday and before dawn Tuesday morning.
McKnight says it appears the thieves tried to steal a bald eagle as well but were unsuccessful and the eagle is uninjured.
Reflection Riding is offering a $500 reward for information leading to Evi’s return.
According to McKnight, bobcats are solitary and normally don’t approach people. Evi, however, is non-releasable and habituated to people. She’s not a domestic animal, and though she’s been imprinted on humans, she doesn’t behave like a house cat and officials say she is NOT suitable as a pet.
The center says while they believe someone stole her, they’re concerned someone might try to release her. Officials say Evi would have difficulty successfully surviving in the wild, and her survival is at stake.
Holding wildlife such as a bobcat in captivity is illegal under Tennessee law, McKnight says.
Reflection Riding has filed a police report, and is talking with regulating bodies like the National Park Service.
They say they have some video and photo evidence, and are hoping it will help officials bring Evi back.
“Her only suitable home is back in captivity with us,” says McKnight in a statement. “Our bobcat is a wonderful addition to our animal ambassador team and our staff have spent countless hours working with her.”
“We need the community’s support to help locate her and bring her back home to safety.”
If you have any information on who may have taken her or if you have seen a bobcat, please contact Evi’s caretaker Taylor Berry at 423-309-9969.