March 12 (UPI) -- Wildlife sanctuaries are offering to take in a bobcat seized by police in Illinois when they raided a shuttered storefront in search of firearms.
Orland Park Police said Lynxie the bobcat was found in a small office at a shuttered storefront where they seized a cache of guns Feb. 28 and arrested the exotic animal's owner, Philip Giese, on a charge of unlawful possession of firearms by a felon and illegal possession of a wild animal.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources said the bobcat, which cannot be released back into the wild due to its front paws being declawed, is being kept at an undisclosed approved facility while the investigation is ongoing.
Tammy Thies, founder and president of the Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minn., said her facility, as well as similar rescue groups, are willing to take Lynxie in once a judge determines it is time to find the animal a permanent home.
Thies said it isn't uncommon for exotic animals seized in similar investigations to be kept in "witness protection."
"I can't speak directly to this case, but rescue groups will hold the animal too," Thies told Patch. "From my experience the bobcat is being properly cared for during the investigation. If the judge's disposition determines that the person had the cat illegally we want it to go to reputable facility."
Thies, whose rescue houses about 100 rescued wildcats, including 30 bobcats, said many of the bobcats encountered by rescue groups in the United States come from the same breeder in Idaho, who ships bobcat and lynx kittens around the country.
"Most of the bobcats we rescue, we can trace back to [the breeder]," Thies said. "Most have neurological problems."
She said most bobcats kept as pets end up homeless when they become adults.
"Even in states where owning a wild or exotic cat is legal, finding a vet to treat the animal can be a challenge. Most liability policies will not cover the damage a wildcat might cause to another pet or person," she said.