Many of our guests are familiar with our young bobcat, Dodger, who is known for being very interactive with all who visit him on the Zoo’s Cat Forest trail. We wanted to update everyone on how Dodger is doing, as he is not a young kitten anymore, but a growing cat who is constantly learning thanks to his animal care team here at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
Dodger came to us at just over 10 pounds and is now a healthy 24-pound adolescent bobcat. Thanks to his strong interest in all things food, he is a very motivated feline who is speeding through his training program with flying colors. Most animals at the Zoo have a training program in place to help their caretakers provide them with the best care possible. Through operant conditioning and positive reinforcement, our animals learn a variety of techniques from daily body presentations to medical behaviors like blood draws. Dodger is no different, he began his training journey by learning ‘beginner’ behaviors such as targeting, laying down and standing up next to the mesh so caretakers can see his belly and the underside of his paws. Dodger is also comfortable with entering a crate and successfully learned injection training, enabling him to receive all of his annual vaccines via voluntary injections.
A benefit to starting Dodger’s training at young age is that he is quick to learn new behaviors. Because of this, his caretakers wanted to move forward with introducing more challenging behaviors that Dodger will retain as he gets older and add to not only his behavior repertoire but also his exercise program. It was time to introduce a jump behavior!
Bobcats are incredible hunters by nature and part of the way they hunt is to grab birds right out of the air! Dodger learning to demonstrate this natural behavior is not just great exercise for him but it’s a unique opportunity for our guests to see his strength and agility. This behavior was initially started in his indoor habitat space where he readily wanted to jump and bat at anything hanging. Caretakers began to reinforce him for jumping and he learned very quickly that he was doing the behavior correctly. Now, thanks to collaboration with the Zoo’s maintenance team, there is a jump device in one of Dodger’s outdoor habitats where guests have a chance to see his jumping skills in action. Be on the lookout for getting to experience one of these training sessions the next time you’re at the Zoo, Dodger and his caretakers are looking forward to seeing you!
- Libby Hayes, carnivore caretaker