KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Bobcats Carter and Cash are now out and about at Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, and a longtime ranger shared tips with News Channel 11 on when you can see them at their best.
“They kind of ran around the habitat for a little while and checked out the trees, the tunnels, everything that’s in the habitat,” Ranger Crystal Haney said. “Since then, they have been very chill, walking around the habitat. They do still spend a lot of time in their small enclosure, that’s their safe place.”
Haney said the ten-month-old brothers were allowed free reign of their enclosure early in the morning on March 1 before park hours. Wildlife experts wanted the duo to experience their new home in the calmest environment they could, since activity outside the fence tends to drive them back to their den.
“So when there’s a lot of noise, a lot of activity, a lot of visitors – with the warmer days we have been a lot busier – they decide to go back to that small enclosure for their safe space,” Haney said. “Eventually we might try to lock them out during the day, but it would be later on when they get more accustomed to all the noises and the crowds that we do draw here.”
The middle of the day tends to be the big cats’ least active period, which corresponds to their behavior in the wild.
“They’re crepuscular, so they’re more active at morning and evening,” Haney said. “So when people are here in the middle of day, it is normal for them to be sleeping.”
What guests don’t need to do is try to wake Carter or Cash up. Staying quiet and still is your best bet to see them, or scheduling your visit at different times.
“We do feed them at nine and four, so that’s some of the best times because they’re ready for their food.” Haney said. “They’re active after they’ve eaten, they’ll come out and kind of walk around for a little bit before they go take their nap after their full bellies.”
Regular events offer rare glimpses at bobcat enrichment each week as well.
“We do keeper talks on Thursday at one,” Haney said. “So usually they try to do some enrichment for the bobcats. Throw in a deer tail or squirrel tail or something to kind of get them over to the platform here where people can see them a little easier. They’re really active during that time.”
In the meantime, the two cats are learning their boundaries and getting used to their home’s new addition.
“When these two came, there were no older bobcats in the enclosure,” Haney said. “They were the only two here, so they didn’t have the older cat to kind of watch, to kind of learn from how to act in the enclosure, that the enclosure’s okay to be in. So they had to learn it all on their own.”
Part of that learning process has been for the park as well. New fence additions, steel cladding on the trees and an abundance of toys makes sure the two don’t get any big ideas about the outside.