Bobcat escapes from National Zoo in Washington

Photo Credit: Barbara Statas, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bobcat that escaped from its enclosure at the National Zoo is perfectly capable of surviving in the wild and would find plenty to eat in a leafy park nearby, zoo officials said Monday.

The female bobcat, believed to be about 7 years old, was found to be missing Monday morning when it didn’t show up for breakfast. At the zoo, the bobcat is known as Ollie.

The bobcat poses no danger to the public, the zoo said.

While no bobcats are known to live in Rock Creek Park, which surrounds the zoo, bobcats are native to much of North America and its mid-Atlantic region. The park, run by the National Park Service, occupies more than 1,700 acres of the nation’s capital.

“We know that she is absolutely capable of surviving, even thriving, in this area,” said Brandie Smith, the zoo’s associate director of animal care. “We are prepared for the eventuality that she is not recaptured.”

Bobcats look a lot like house cats, only bigger and with short, stubby tails. Ollie weighs about 25 pounds.

The zoo has closed the area around the bobcat exhibit to visitors in hopes that Ollie will get hungry and come back. The zoo provides the animal with a mostly meat-based diet and does not feed her live prey. However, Ollie has killed birds inside the enclosure, Smith said.

“We know that she has the ability to hunt,” Smith said. “All of her nutritional needs are met here — a nice little buffet of tasty items.”

If Ollie doesn’t return, she would likely survive on a diet of birds and small rodents, Smith said.

Bobcats are not known to be aggressive toward humans. However, the animal could be tempted by house cats or small dogs that are left alone outside, Smith said.