By Dylan J. Darling

The Bulletin

The sight was a sure shock to Pacific Crest Trail hiker David Osborn. Walking the trail through Northern California in 2005, he saw a wildcat huddled on a sandbar along a creek near Castle Crags State Park.

His chance discovery of the once-captive male lynx led the cat to Bend, where it lived for nearly a decade as a popular animal at the High Desert Museum. Snowshoe, as he was known here, died late Tuesday of kidney failure. Museum officials say he was more than 20 years old.

“I’m glad everything worked out,” said Marianne Dickison, center manager for Shasta Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Anderson, California, who cared for the cat shortly after it was found. “He couldn’t have gotten better care. … I don’t think the first part of his life was very good,” she said Wednesday.

Snowshoe likely was born into captivity and someone tried to keep him as a pet. A veterinarian who examined the lynx after Osborn found him in August 2005 discovered that someone had neutered him, removed his claws and pulled out his canine teeth. The vet also found the cat lacked muscle, a clue that it had been kept in small quarters for a long time.

Osborn’s presence didn’t startle the lynx when he discovered him along the east fork of Sulphur Creek in the mountains north of Redding, California.

“He was lying in a sphinx position,” Osborn told the museum about three weeks ago.

Following the advice given to people in the backcountry who encounter a wildcat, Osborn tried to make himself seem large and made noise. The cat didn’t care.

“(He) looked at me curiously and yawned, then stretched like a dog and started walking straight toward me,” Osborn told the museum.