Three people in San Antonio were injured after being bitten by two bobcat kittens, which they had mistakenly assumed were a pair of domestic Bengal kittens.
While the pint-sized felines seemed cute and harmless at first, San Antonio Animal Care Services spokeswoman Lisa Norwood tells PEOPLE that the trio, which included a 10-year-old child, were bitten on May 5 while trying to feed the young cats.
The following day, the victims, who were all female, contacted ACS saying “they had found what they believed were Bengal kittens in the back alleyway” and that after “noticing how robust the kittens were” suspected that the animals might actually be bobcats.
“One of our animal care officers came out to the scene and decided, ‘Yes, indeed these are not domestic kittens, these are bobcats. So the two bobcats were brought into animal care services and we worked with the state and one of our partners, Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation, to work on a quarantine plan,” Norwood adds.
The two bobcats, a male and female, are currently being held at Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation for 30 days to make sure they are not rabies carriers.
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While none of the victims required hospitalization, they did require medical attention.
“You’re talking multiple bites from wild animals, including multiple bites to a 10-year-old child from wild animals,” Norwood remarks.
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However, things got complicated as ACS discovered the story the victims initially shared wasn’t what had actually happened.
A relative of one of the bite victims had found the animals several days before Saturday in Atascosa County, a rural Texas county just south of San Antonio.
“We’re told there actually may have been three kittens that had been found in a property there, and that it was decided for whatever reason to bring those kittens back into San Antonio,” Norwood explains, adding that ACS had also been told that the third kitten died, presumably in Atascosa County.
ACS is also looking into whether the victims could face criminal charges for their actions.
“Right now, given the fact that we were given false information on our bite report and given the fact that we had been given false information as to where the animals who were engaged in this bite case were found, we’re engaged in an investigation with state wildlife officials that may result in criminal charges,” Norwood says. “There are wildlife laws both in San Antonio and in the state of Texas governing possession of bobcats and removal of wild animals, like bobcats, from their habitat.”
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Speaking out about the problems with removing animals from the wild, Lynn Cuny — president and founder of Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation — told KENS5 that “the real story of these bobcat kittens is one of tragedy, not one of ‘cute babies.’ ”
“These two infant’s lives were altered the moment they were stolen from their mother. Not only will they never know her loving care but these bobcats now have to be raised by humans, their No. 1 predator. Though we trust they will do well, the fact is that no wild animal baby should ever have to make such a traumatic adjustment and suffer the trauma of being orphaned.”