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Baby bobcat injured by California fire recuperating at wildlife shelter

Found abandoned, burned, and covered in soot, a bobcat kitten rescued from a Northern California wildfire over the weekend is recuperating just fine at a South Lake Tahoe wildlife shelter, officials said on Wednesday.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care

Chips, the bobcat kitten, was rescued by firefighters patrolling the Chips Fire in Plumas National Forest in California. She's fattening up at a wildlife center, getting fed mouse meat.

The 4-week-old bobcat is “starting to feel better and wants to get out,” Cheryl Millham, executive director and co-founder of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, told NBC News. “She’s sleeping and eating much better.”

Members from Northern California’s Mad River Hand Crew were patrolling the northern end of the 74,000-acre Chips Fire in Plumas National Forest on Saturday when they found the bobcat stumbling in the ashes, Millham said. 

Crew superintendent Tad Hair spotted the animal, described as about the size of a domestic kitten, walking alone near a stump. The bobcat was walking in circles, barely able to hold herself up.



“He said he looked around for large paw prints, but saw nothing," indicating the mother bobcat was nowhere in the vicinity, Millham told NBC News. "In times of fire, fire crews [usually] leave wildlife alone. When he started to leave, the cat followed him and then climbed on his boot.”

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The kitten had suffered second-degree burns on her four paws. After seeing no signs of her mother, Hair decided to get her to a Sierraville, Calif., firefighter who transported her to Lake Tahoe, Millham said.

The wildlife center received the kitten, who was named Chips, on Saturday evening and started her rehabilitation. Chips will be sheltered throughout the winter at the center, where she will learn appropriate behaviors with other animals, Millham said. She's eating pulverized mouse and squirrel, and drinking formula.

"She will get well, heal up and be released into the wild when she is ready," probably when she is about 8 months, Millham said.

Chips is expected to gain 10 more pounds before her release into the wild. Her vision, which had been impaired by an infection from smoke and ash, is expected to heal, Millham said.

Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care is a non-profit organization that helps injured and orphaned animals.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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