Euthanized young bobcat was ‘bludgeoned’ to death by Oregon police, activists say

After two young bobcats were captured last week at a school in Eugene, Oregon, wildlife officials said one young animal was released into the wild while its likely sibling was euthanized.

But the Humane Society of the United States and Predator Defense are accusing state officials of cruelly killing the animal, saying in a news release Wednesday that “an agency official informed Predator Defense in an email that the kitten was killed by blunt force trauma to the head.”

“I was stunned,” Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense said, according to KMTR. “But I wasn’t surprised unfortunately.”

State police confirmed in an email to McClatchy news group on Wednesday that an officer killed the animal “in the safest manner” with blunt force trauma.

“Note that euthanasia drugs to put an animal down can only be administered by a licensed veterinarian,” Mindy McCartt, a state police spokesperson, said in an email. “Blunt force trauma is an (American Veterinary Medical Association) recognized method to humanely euthanize an animal.”

Activists countered that the veterinary guideline “clearly defines when blunt force trauma may be used to euthanize an animal, which is only in rare circumstances.”

“The bludgeoning of a young animal, whose only wrongdoing was being in the wrong place at the wrong time, underscores an indifference to the welfare of the wildlife they’ve been sworn to protect,” Kelly Peterson, Oregon senior state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

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The bobcats were caught on separate days last week at the Oak Hill School, officials said in an Oct. 17 news release.

Officials said “the first bobcat entered the school while students and staff were still present before school officials discovered it, trapped it in a room and called the Lane County Sheriff.”

Deputies caught the first young bobcat and then handed it off to the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division, which euthanized the animal after consulting with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) biologists about its “abnormal behavior,” according to state officials.

“Bobcats, like most wildlife, will generally avoid people and will not enter structures,” officials said.

School staff spotted the second animal outside the school the next day and captured it, then handed it off to ODFW’s Wildlife Health Lab for evaluation, officials said.

That second bobcat, a male, was released into forested land in Lane County on Oct. 18, officials said. State officials shared video footage showing the release.

Officials said the second bobcat was roughly 6 months old based on its teeth.

“This bobcat is in the age range when bobcats naturally strike out on their own,” Dr. Julia Burco, an ODFW wildlife veterinarian, said in a statement. “It was in good physical condition and exhibited normal behavior for a juvenile bobcat, which made it a good candidate for release back to the wild.”

Activists said the treatment of the second animal suggested killing the first was unnecessary.

“There is no excuse for such an inhumane action when, as we’ve seen with the second bobcat who was found at the same school and released unharmed earlier this week, the first kitten could have easily received that same treatment,” Peterson said.

Photos and videos from the school show the bobcat perched on a windowsill in front of a printer and being dragged out of the facility by uniformed officers.

“I was sitting here doing some boring paperwork after school,” said John O’Brien, the head of the private school, according to KVAL, “when I heard from outside the office one of our moms yell: ‘There’s a bobcat!’”

The animal activists are calling for an investigation into the agencies’ handling of the situation.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.