KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Now that two bobcat kittens are scheduled to fill the enclosure that formerly housed Kirby the bobcat, Bays Mountain staff said they’re preparing for a closer relationship between the public and their animals.
“Kirby could on occasion be a little bit standoffish, he liked to stick to himself,” said Tyler Wicks, the park’s chief ranger. “And so we’re hoping getting these as kittens, they’ll get really used to the habitat, really used to the visitors, so they’ll be a little bit more friendly.”
To help the two brothers — who haven’t been named yet — get acclimated, Wicks said they’ll be spending a few weeks in quarantine so staff can learn their habits and boundaries. Once that’s up, they should be in their enclosure around November.
Socializing the bobcats will be relatively straightforward, Wicks said. Like all cats, food provides a great motivator.
“The bobcats are nice because they eat twice a day, unlike the wolves who eat twice a week,” Wicks said. “So there are a lot more opportunities for the public to see the bobcats.”
A series of introduction programs are still in the works, and crews will make improvements to the enclosure while they wait on a move-in date.
“We have been getting the habitat ready,” Wicks said. “We have been baffling the trees, which means we’re wrapping metal around the trees to prevent the bobcats from climbing. We’ve been shoring up some of our fencing, and we’re going to be installing some new enrichment opportunities like a climbing tower.”
While Bays Mountain staff haven’t been face-to-snout with the kittens yet, the staff at their Montana home have been sharing details about them.
“The caretakers at the zoo they’re at currently at say they’re very sweet,” Wicks said. “They are brothers and they are kittens, so they’re playful. One is a little bit shyer than the other, but we’re hoping we can work that out of him. But as far as I know, very playful little kittens.”
The park’s naming committee will decide the cats’ names by vote and will announce the new monikers on social media.