Drunken man set zoo bobcat free after trying to play fetch with it, police say
Bobcats, like house cats, don’t play fetch.
A drunk man learned that lesson the hard way in Chattanooga, Tenn., last month, when he broke into a bobcat enclosure at the zoo and allowed one of the cats to escape during a failed game of fetch, according to police.
Cayden Melia, 21, told police he used a rock to break into the enclosure at Chattanooga’s Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center, according to an affidavit. Melia said he tried to get the bobcat, named Evi, to play fetch with a ball, but Evi ignored him and escaped her cage.
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Reflection Riding says there were two suspects involved in the June 10 break-in, based on the facility’s security footage.
Authorities and park employees spent a week searching for the wayward animal. The bobcat came back on her own on June 17 and looked noticeably thinner than when she left, the nature centre said.
Police linked the escape to Melia and confronted him at his home, the Times Free Press reports.
Reflection Riding says Evi is habituated to humans and was never a threat to the public.
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Evi our #bobcat is back! We're so appreciative of the community support and all the concern we've heard over the past week while we searched for our beloved girl. Remember: wild animals are not good pets! Evi may look cute but you do not want to be in her enclosure without her favorite keeper, Taylor. Our animal ambassadors cannot be released into the wild because they are either imprinted on humans like Evi or they are injured and wouldn't survive in the wild. The only safe place for these beautiful animals is in our sanctuary, their home. We're happy to say that Evi looks great. She's a little bit skinnier than we'd like and has clearly lost quite a bit of weight. We'll be working with her to get her weight back up to normal and she looks good otherwise.
“Evi has been hiding out in her cave after unexpectedly having a week in the wild,” the centre said.
Melia was issued a citation for criminal trespassing and vandalism. He must turn himself over to a county jail by July 14.Follow @JoshKElliott
—With files from The Associated Press
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