Missouri farmers trap what they thought was a ‘crazy-looking cat’ — ended up being an African serval
A wild cat that’s native to Africa was recently found and rescued from a live trap in Missouri after a farmer emailed a tip to a wildlife sanctuary that specializes in big cat care.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, responded to the emergency rescue email and retrieved an African serval that had been living in the forested area in Ava, Missouri, which is a small rural city in the Ozark Mountains.
In a press release issued on Friday, Jan. 20, the sanctuary revealed that locals had spotted the sub-Saharan cat passing through the area in the last half year, but they didn’t know it was an exotic animal.
Servals are considered medium-sized carnivorous wild cats that usually live in savanna habitats, according to the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF).
The species is said to be native to more than 35 African countries and wildlife experts currently recognize 19 subspecies.
Appearance-wise, servals have tawny fur coats with black spots and have long necks, long legs and large ears, according to the AWF.
“You never know what the day will bring around here,” said Tanya Smith, president of the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, in a statement.
The farmers who found the serval in the live trap provided the animal venison and water. They also took the cat to a local veterinarian, according to Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge.
Initially, the farmers set the live trap when they noticed feathers and bones had been stashed between their stacked hay bales.
“Less than twelve hours after placing the trap, they discovered an African serval inside,” the sanctuary wrote in its rescue announcement.
One of the farmers reportedly told the refuge they thought the serval was a “crazy-looking cat.”
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge documented the serval mission in a five-minute, 27-second video, which was posted to Facebook and YouTube on Friday, Jan. 20.
In the video, Smith said the serval appeared to be in “good health” and would be housed in a temporary quarantine station at the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.
She added that the sanctuary team plans to see how the rescued serval will interact with the other servals and bobcats that already live at the refuge.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge is currently home to a number of big cat species, including tigers, lions, cougars, servals, bobcats, leopards, a single jaguar and various big cat hybrids, such as ligers, liligers, tiligers and savannah cats. The refuge also serves as a home to a hyena and a large group of bears.
“Even though the Big Cat Public Safety Act has been passed, small cats and other species are not protected,” the refuge wrote in its press release. “It is common for private owners to release exotics into non-native environments.”
Experts at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge reportedly suspect their recent serval rescue might have escaped or was released by an exotic backyard breeder or a savannah cat breeder.
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge shared a Facebook post on Jan. 20 letting the public know that the serval was determined to be female and is still in need of a name.
In a health update video posted on Monday, Jan 23, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge let its Facebook followers know the rescued serval weighed 29 pounds, showed evidence of being able to bird hunt and is estimated to be five years old.
The unnamed serval was also found to have fleas and anemia and was scheduled for a same-day partial tail amputation due to frostbite. She will eventually have a dental cleaning.
Those who would like to make a donation and receive naming rights to Turpentine Creek’s newest serval can reach out to Smith via email at [email protected].