CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WTVC) — Officials at a Chattanooga nature center say they now believe a bobcat fought back when criminals broke in and tried to steal her – and say she could be in the Lookout Mountain area.
Reflection Riding Arboretum & Nature Center released a statement Thursday afternoon with the new developments. According to center officials, they believe the trespassers are young people who paddled in from Lookout Creek and then got onto their boardwalk and the native animal area.
The center believes the trespassers first tried to take their bald eagle, Flora Nooga. Bald eagles are federally protected migratory birds, and while she was unsettled by the intrusion, officials say the bird does not appear to have been hurt.
When that didn’t work, officials believe they moved on to Evi’s space.
“We originally presumed she had been trafficked for the illegal exotic animal trade,” said Reflection Riding officials in a statement Thursday, “We now believe Evi fought back against the criminals and was able to escape before she could be stolen. Federal law enforcement is now working the case alongside TWRA.”
The nature center says they believe Evi is now missing in the Lookout Mountain area, and they’re asking people not to approach the bobcat if you see her. Instead, take a picture of the area, and send the pic along with your contact info directly to Evi’s keeper, Taylor Berry at 423-309-9969.
Wildlife Director Tish Gailmard says bobcats showing up as house pets has become a popular problem.
“She does not make a good pet. She’s a wild animal, and extremely powerful,” said Gailmard.
Reflection Riding says they are letting the forest calm down in the area where they believe Evi is currently.
They will begin their search again Friday morning.
The center says they’re grateful for the many community members who have reached out to them, concerned for Evi’s wellbeing.
“We have received an overwhelming response from people concerned for Evi who want to aid us in her recovery. We are so grateful for the support of the community in this difficult time and want to thank you for your willingness to help us increase the reward for her safe return. Thankfully, a larger reward does not seem necessary at this time for her return. With the information we have currently, we need to shift toward ensuring Evi’s safe recovery.”
The nature center is asking community members for donations they say will help them mobilize more trained professionals to work with law enforcement to find Evi.