An abrupt and abnormal cold front gripped parts of southeastern Texas in early December, catching many off-guard, including two native Southern California bobcats recently transferred to the area.
With temperatures almost 15 degrees below the December normal, staff at the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch had to get creative, as their two newest bobcat editions had no time to acclimate for wintry weather conditions. The animal sanctuary is located in Murchison, Texas, which is about 80 miles southeast of Dallas.
While bobcats are native to most of the United States, according to the Director of the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch Ben Calllison, these bobcats from near Ramona, Calif., were still acclimated to that warm, dry and humid climate. Typically, the animals are able to adapt to a new climate, but they must be given adequate time, at least two months, to do so.
"They are designed for handling cold temperatures, their coats are designed for that," Callison said.
However, due to the sudden cold, unlike bobcats native to the northern states, these Southern California bobcats did not have enough time to develop winter coats or store fat to keep them warm during cold snaps.
"There was concern that maybe there would be potential for them to get too cold," Callison said.
As a result, the staff had to come up with a solution almost overnight prior to the fast cold blast.
With more than 1,000 animals and more than 40 species at the sanctuary, the team was used to finding creative ways to provide heat. For the bobcats, the staff built a wooden box and placed a boxed heater inside.
The box was then hung from the bobcat's enclosure to ensure that the cats couldn't burn themselves by touching it. These types of heaters are known to dramatically improve the temperature inside enclosures.
"They raise the temperature inside the box about 15 to 20 degrees," according to Callison. "When we were seeing lows in the 30s, they keep the box around 50 degrees."
These boxes are not uncommon around the sanctuary, as they are installed throughout the winter months and are turned on for nights when the temperature is expected to drop below the 40s and 50s.
Due to the fact that not all of the animals want the heat, most are given a choice, as the sanctuary provides both an unheated and heated box for all their animals.
"We never want to put any of our animals here in sanctuary at risk, so we always will provide supplemental heat when necessary to make sure that they stay nice and toasty warm through the cold of the night," Callison said.
To guarantee that the animals stay stay comfortable during chilly winter nights, the sanctuary staff members do night checks to make sure every heater is still operating correctly.
At the sanctuary, some of the other animals including, various farm animals and tigers, are provided hay to nest in and keep warm during the winter months.
"We get very creative with most species here to provide them with the warmth through the winter months to survive and make it through to the other side healthy and happy," Callison said.