Evi the Bobcat was stolen from Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee sometime between late Monday night and early Tuesday morning, Times Free Press reported. Now the center needs the public’s help in finding who was responsible. They were worried that Evi might be part of an exotic pet trade, but now they believe that she fought whoever tried to kidnap her and escaped into the woods. Here are more details about Evi and what happened, along with photos and video of Evi that can help you identify her.
1. Video & Photo Evidence Did Not Identify the Suspects
Video and photo evidence was obtained from that night, but police couldn’t identify the suspects from the evidence, President Mark McKnight told Times Free Press. They also tried to steal a bald eagle but were not successful. Both the bald eagle and the bobcat enclosures showed signs of a break-in.
Reflection Riding said on Facebook that they were asked by the police not to share the photo or video evidence. “We’ve been advised not to share as the community ID would not be possible and we don’t want to make it obvious where our cameras are located. Getting the word out about the reward will hopefully lead to some information quickly.”
Here’s a video of Evi from last July:
A $500 reward is being offered. Evi needs to be returned quickly. She has a loving and happy life at Reflection Riding and had imprinted on humans so she cannot survive in the wild.
2. Reflection Riding Was Concerned She Might Be Part of an Illegal Exotic Pet Trade, But Now They Believe She Escaped & Is on National Park Service Land
McKnight initially said he was concerned that Evi is now part of an illegal exotic pet trade, or that someone might try to release her into the wild. But she can’t survive in the wild. You can see how happy Evi is at the center in the video below.
On Friday afternoon, Evi was seen on National Park Service land, Knox News reported. McKnight said that she was on conservation property owned by NPS, which reduces the risk of her encountering cars, hunters, or animals. However, she still needs to be caught quickly and she’s still in danger. He believes that the would-be kidnappers paddled onto the property from Lookout Creek and she fought them when they tried to steal her and escaped into the woods.
Reflection Riding wrote on their Facebook page: “Bobcats are solitary and normally do not approach people. However, our bobcat is non-releasable and habituated to humans. If you encounter a bobcat, back up and move away slowly. Talk, make noise and do not run away. While we presume the bobcat has been stolen, we are concerned that someone may release her into the wild.”
Maria Willison, who had met Evi, wrote on Facebook: “I got to know Evi (the bobcat) earlier this year for a sculpture I did. She was very sweet and enjoyed her home at the Nature Center. I’m so sad that she’s been stolen. I hope and pray they catch the jerks who took her.”
3. Evi Is an Animal Ambassador Who’s Imprinted on Humans & Can’t Survive in the Wild
She’s an animal ambassador for the nature center who has imprinted on humans and has a happy life at Reflecting Riding. McKnight told Times Free Press: “She would have difficulty successfully surviving in the wild and her survival is at stake. She is not a domestic animal and while she has been imprinted on humans, she does not behave like a house cat and is not suitable as a pet. Holding wildlife such as a bobcat in captivity is also illegal under Tennessee law.”
McKnight added: “We go through a rigorous annual permitting process with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and meet all requirements for enclosure standards and safety. Her only suitable home is back in captivity with us. Our bobcat is a wonderful addition to our animal ambassador team and our staff have spent countless hours working with her. We need the community’s support to help locate her and bring her back home to safety.”
Evi has imprinted on humans, especially her caretaker Taylor Berry. She needs to be found and returned as quickly as possible.
4. Evi & Her Caretaker, Taylor Berry, Hosted a Behind-the-Scenes Tour for the Center in December
Evi the Bobcat’s caretaker is Taylor Berry. In November and December, Reflections Riding hosted a silent auction and one of the events was hanging out with Berry and Evi. The cute opportunity was called “Beer with a Bobcat” and the leading bid was $185. The description read: “Spend two hours with Taylor Berry as he gives you a behind the scenes tour of our animal ambassadors and invites you into Evi the Bobcat’s home. This is a rare opportunity to get up-close and personal with one of our favorite animal ambassadors. We’ll provide beer for you and toys for Evi.”
Evi was obviously a very important part of the nature center, beloved by employees, her caretaker, and guests.
5. A $500 Reward Is Offered for Her Return
You can see a video of Evi jumping in the Facebook video above. She was one of Reflection Riding’s beloved animal ambassadors.
Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center helps animals that can’t be released back into the wild, either because they are part of species survival plans or because of injuries or other issues. They host events like mushroom hikes, photography hikes, summer camps, red wolf events, and more.
Here are some photos that show just what a beautiful place Reflection Riding is, where Evi was living:
The center is asking for the public’s help in finding Evi and is offering a $500 reward for her return. If you have any information, call Taylor Berry, Evi’s caretaker, at 423-309-9969.
A donation page has also been put together to help the center fund its search for Evi.