TRENTON — A young bobcat nursed back to health after being hit by a car in Passaic County was released back into the wild on Wednesday.

The now year-old bobcat was returned to its natural habitat at Waywayanda State Park in Hewitt after a three-month rehabilitation at the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge in Pittstown.

Considered an endangered species, the bobcat was hit by a car last November and suffered multiple femur and joint fractures to its right hind leg that required pins, wires, screws and plates to repair. The surgery was performed by an orthopedic specialist at the Crown Veterinary Specialists in Lebanon.

“This bobcat was very lucky to have survived being hit by a vehicle,” Division of Fish and Wildlife Acting Director Larry Herrighty said in a statement. “It was able to pull through the surgery and rehabilitation successfully because it was so young when it was hit. We are very hopeful that it will succeed in the wild and be yet another success story made possible by the work of the division’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program.”

Tracey Leaver said it's "bittersweet" for an animal they have rehabilitated to be  released "but giving our wild patients a second chance is the sweet part,” Tracy Leaver, the refuge’s executive director said.

Bobcats are native to northwest New Jersey and growth in their population has been "encouraging" in recent years, according to Fish & Game. Seven or eight bobcats are lost to being hit by vehicles. At one time they were widespread but their population was thinned in colonial days because they were hunted for fur and their forest homes were lost to logging and farming.

Between 1978 and 1982, 24 cats were relocated from Maine to North Jersey in an effort to rebuild their population.

“This success story is a testament to the important work the Division of Fish and Wildlife does every day to conserve and protect our remarkably diverse populations of wildlife,” Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said in a statement. “The division would not be able to do this type of work if not for the strong partnerships it has built with groups such as the Woodlands Wildlife Refuge and the generous support from those who donate a portion of their state income-tax returns to wildlife conservation."


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