EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was called in to assist after Missouri Game and Fish were alerted to the capture of an African serval that was spotted in Missouri several times over a six-month period.

According to a media release from the Eureka Springs-based animal refuge, the serval was caught using a live trap on January 14. Exactly how the animal came to be roaming wild in the Ozarks is unknown.

The release noted that it is unclear if the serval was released into the wild or escaped private ownership. But this isn’t the first time that such an animal, which is about the height of a bobcat with a bright, tawny coat with dark spots and stripes, has been rescued under similar circumstances.

In October 2019, New Mexico Fish and Game captured a male serval with his front feet declawed in a park near Sante Fe. In July 2021, a Georgia woman woke up to a serval “hopping into her bed” after it entered the house through an open door. And a California family called police in December 2021 after discovering a serval in their bathroom.

Other recent serval rescues include one over 40 pounds found in Massachusetts, another reported missing by its owners in Cleveland last July and at least three reported “on the loose” in Vancouver in October 2022.

According to Turpentine Creek, the cats are native to the savannahs of Africa and they prefer to live in warm, arid places near a water source. They are not well-equipped to deal with extreme winter weather conditions.

Turpentine Creek President Tanya Smith was contacted on January 17 after a farmer near Ava captured the animal within 12 hours of setting up a live trap. A local veterinarian examined her and deemed the serval to be about three years old and in good health. She appeared to have been living under hay bales in a barn as protection from the elements.

“It was amazing that this young serval could survive six months like she has, but she obviously was successful by the amount of bird feathers we found onsite. The skilled huntress had obviously been bringing her kills back to her adopted ‘den’ to consume them in safety.

Tanya Smith, TCWR president

She added that the people that trapped the serval took “very good care of it,” including giving it fresh water, feeding it venison and bringing it to their local vet.

“The veterinarian could not find a microchip,” Smith added. “We don’t know if she was an attempted domestication as a pet and was released, or even part of a backyard breeding scheme and escaped.”

The cat was in a calm state when the Turpentine Creek rescue team arrived, and she was easily transferred from the live trap to a transport crate. She was then taken back to the refuge and placed in a recovery enclosure at the onsite Jackson Memorial Veterinary Hospital for quarantine, where she will remain for the near future.

This brings the total number of servals at the facility to 10. The refuge notes that the cats prefer solitude and do not make good pets.

Four of the 10 servals at Turpentine Creek were turned in by former owners. More information about the refuge, including ways to help support the facility, is available here.