Heading home from visiting friends on June 19, the last thing Larry Brandt thought he would end up doing was wrestling an exotic cat into a carrier cage inside a grassy median along eastbound Interstate 205, midway between Interstate 5 and the Stafford Road exit.
But that's exactly where Brandt, a West Linn resident, found himself doing shortly after noticing a woman and what looked like a big cat lying about 10 feet from the passerby.
"I said to my wife, 'what the heck did we just see?" he asked, noting he pulled from the shoulder across traffic to the median to park behind the woman's car. "And sure enough, it was a serval, which is a wild cat from Africa."
The animal, which resembles a small leopard, had been struck by a car and had an obvious severe injury to its left rear leg.
Before long, the first passerby left and a second woman, who happened to be a veterinarian technician, pulled up followed by an Oregon State Police trooper who called Oregon Fish and Wildlife, who informed the trooper they don't respond to calls involving pets, even if it was a domesticated wildcat .
"It was apparent to me, this cat was going to die," recalled Brandt, who said when the third trooper arrived with an animal carrier, he decided he was going to act. "And I'm an old fart. I shouldn't even be doing this. I'm 77 years old (but) we had to do it.
Brandt said he approached the animal, which turned out to weigh 20 pounds, carefully before he threw a blanket over it. In the struggle, the serval bit him on the wrist.
"I've been there before, I've been sent to the doctor before because of feral cat bites because my wife is one of those people who has mercy on those animals," said Brandt, who before retiring sold electronics used on aircraft for a Wilsonville firm. "But it just had to be done and I was the only one experienced enough."
The state police trooper ended up transporting the injured animal, which had a dislocated hip and fractured pelvis, to DoveLewis ER & ICU Animal Hospital in Portland. While the cat eventually had to have its hind leg amputated, Brandt credited the state troopers with helping to save the animal's life.
After all the excitement the previous evening, Brandt was the first in line at a local drug store the next morning to get a tetanus shot and pick up some antibiotics for the bite, which resulted in a low-grade fever. But by Thursday, Brandt reported he was back to his old self.
Although the animal had a collar around its neck listing its owner, veterinarians aren't allowed to give exotic animals back to their owners, said Brandt, and the serval was eventually transported to WildCat Ridge Cat Sanctuary in Scotts Mills.
What Brandt would later discover was that this was the same exotic cat that had been reported roaming around some of the more rural landscape by near Athey Creek Middle School and Rolling Hills Community Church for the last 1½ months.
"My reason for bringing this to your attention is not for me but to let people know it's absolutely illegal in Oregon to have an exotic, whether it's a crocodile, an iguana or a wild imported cat. It's an invasive species and the only people that are allowed to have it are the sanctuaries like the WildCat Ridge down by Silverton."
Formerly WildCat Haven Sanctuary in rural Sherwood, the sanctuary has since relocated to a larger site in Marion County.
Ian Ford, an executive assistant at the WildCat Ridge Sanctuary, confirmed that the animal was brought to the sanctuary, which provides a lifetime home for wildcats and other animals that have been abused, neglected or exploited.
"He is currently in the recovery process and we're cautiously optimistic that he will survive," Ford said about the serval on Thursday.
He pointed out that the owner of the animal had a choice of either surrendering the confiscated cat or paying all medical costs, face a fine and possibly be sent to jail.
"The owners chose to surrender the animal," Ford said.
He said the sanctuary is currently conducting a fundraising drive to off-set costs of the animal's surgery and future care. Those interested should visit wildcatridgesanctuary.org.
Brandt, too, is trying to help the sanctuary, collecting money through his Facebook account for the organization.
"I'm that guy you want in that (airplane) exit row because I have always – my entire life – I have gone toward emergencies," noted Brandt, who is the proud owners of two former alley cats, which at 6 and 15 pounds are much easier to handle than a serval.
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