DELAVAN TOWNSHIP —The two baby Siberian lynxes stolen Monday from the Animal Gardens petting zoo were returned safely Wednesday night, the Janesville Gazette is reporting.
At about 7:15 p.m., police received a call that both missing lynxes had been returned to Animal Gardens, according to a Town of Delavan Police Department news release. The lynxes were hungry but mostly in good health.
Town of Delavan police are still investigating the incident, according to the release. They have suspects but could not provide more information Wednesday.
Animal Gardens was offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the return of two baby Siberian lynxes.
The 7-week-old exotic cats were born at Animal Gardens, owner Dana Montana said Wednesday. The lynxes' parents are still on the property.
At about 9 or 9:30 p.m. Monday, Montana said security camera footage showed a truck pulling up to the petting zoo area. The truck went to the “baby barn,” where Montana said the lynxes were housed in a nursery.
The baby lynxes were gone when someone arrived to feed them Tuesday morning, Montana said.
The lynxes can sell for about $4,000 each, she said. Those who own them are required to have various licenses from government agencies.
“They're not something somebody could use as a domestic house cat,” Montana said. “They have the ability to get bigger later. And they're not cute when they get bigger. They're an exotic animal. So I would doubt very much someone stole them to keep them as a house pet.
“We feel that somebody stole them to maybe try and sell them on the black market,” she said.
Montana said Animal Gardens was trying to sell the lynxes, which is what it normally does. Lynxes are indigenous to Wisconsin.
The baby lynxes were fed every four to six hours. Caretakers at the petting zoo were bottle feeding them but slowly weaning them off bottles to accept small pieces of meat, Montana said.
“If somebody took them and doesn't understand how to feed an exotic animal of this species, they won't last,” Montana said. “They definitely have to be cared for in a certain way.”
For the first few months after birth, exotic cats are part of educational programming for schools and other groups, Montana said.
Animal Gardens is part of the venue that also houses the Dancing Horses Theater.