BANGOR, Maine — When Josh Plourde of Bangor saw a van parked on Harlow Street around midnight on Tuesday, he noticed the flashing hazard lights and saw that all four doors of the vehicle were open.
What he saw when he stopped to offer assistance was a bit of a surprise: A bobcat was hiding under the van.
“I guess what happened was a woman was driving in Veazie on Route 2 and she hit what she thought was a house cat,” Plourde said. “It was still alive and was kind of hurt. So she pulled over to the side and scooped it up and put it in the car, thinking that it was hurt and was out in the wild. She wanted to help it.”
The problem: The animal was not only in the wild. It was wild.
“By the time she got to downtown Bangor she realized what she had put in her car was not in fact a house cat,” Plourde said.
The woman was understandably distressed. She parked next to Bangor City Hall and opened up all the doors of her vehicle in order to let the cat escape. It did, partially, scurrying out of the van and hiding underneath it.
Plourde said the woman didn’t have a cellphone, so he called police, who responded. Maine Game Warden Jim Fahey also responded to the call.
According to the police report, Officer John Robinson of the Bangor Police Department actually happened upon the car during a routine downtown patrol.
Bangor police Sgt. Bob Bishop, Sgt. Larry Weber and Officer Gary Decker also responded to the incident. Bishop used a catch pole to secure the bobcat until Fahey arrived.
Fahey said he spoke with Bishop and learned that the cat was severely injured.
“I saw it had a hip and/or leg injury and was unable to walk,” Fahey said. “My estimation was it was going to be a mortal wound.”
The bobcat was humanely euthanized, Fahey said. The driver hadn’t committed any crime and no charges were filed.
“In my experience, when you have a full-sized vehicle [striking] a 20-pound animal, there’s a lot going on there. It’s not just a sprained hip,” said Fahey, who said the cat likely suffered serious internal injuries, as well.
Fahey said the bobcat was a small adult. Both he and the Bangor Police Department cautioned the public, warning well-meaning people to avoid handling animals, whether wild or domesticated.
“Although this [case] seems amusing, one should always be careful handling injured animals and call [the] local animal control officer or game wardens when in doubt,” Bangor Police Sgt. Paul Edwards wrote in a news release.
“If they feel strongly about [doing something], they could certainly report the incident so that there’s no undue suffering on behalf of the animal,” Fahey said. “But I’m not going to suggest people handle a wild animal. Rabies, bites, scratches. There are a lot of reasons not to handle a wild animal.”