A male bobcat named Kitchi has found a home in Upper Tampa Bay Regional Park, completing a long recovery that began when an underweight, dehydrated bobcat kitten was discovered in a Hillsborough County field last year.
The 4- or 5-week-old kitten was found by a resident in June of 2015 and brought to Kris Porter, the head of Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, a Tampa-based nonprofit organization that helps rehabilitate injured wildlife.
Porter’s group helped nurse the kitten back to health. As part of the rehabilitation process, the kitten was then sent out of state to the Louisiana Bobcat Refuge to help it learn how to fend for itself in the wild.
On Wednesday, Kitchi was brought back to Florida and released in a secluded section of Upper Tampa Bay Regional Park, a 580-acre County park at 8001 Double Branch Road. The park’s mix of trees, native vegetation, and fresh and saltwater habitat is perfect for bobcats, several of which already range on park property, said Senior Park Manager Brian Evarts.
The bobcat’s name, Kitchi, means “brave’’ in the native Algonquin language.
“I always get emotional,’’ Porter said a few minutes after Kitchi was released. “It’s an incredible feeling to know that you were a part of something so big that so many people were involved in from start to finish.’’
Bobcats are found throughout Florida, though their nocturnal habits and natural camouflage make them a relatively rare sight. They are easily distinguishable by their distinctive pointed ears, short “bob’’ tail, and mottled, tan coat. They eat a wide variety of birds and small animals and typically live in forests, swamps and hammocks.