"Bo" - Miserable for 6 Nights

(mid January 2018)

Executive Summary

"Bo" was stuck for 6 nights in Brandon MS starting on a Sunday. A local tree service climber failed on Wednesday. I failed on Friday due to high winds and the position of the kitty at 70 feet in the top of the tree. On Saturday, I was successful because the kitty moved down the tree to about 35 feet. However, he was 20 feet out on a limb and super skittish, so I had to cut the limb. Bo jumped off during the fall at about 20 feet and was ok. Leigh-Anne and Jeff, many thanks for your extremely generous donation to the Oktibbeha County Humane Society! Betsy, Cade, and Callie -- thanks for your help as ground crew in the sub-freezing weather!


It was a Wednesday, and I was at a cat rescue in Bentonia when I received a text message from Leigh-Anne in Brandon; one of her family's kitties had been stuck since Sunday, could I help? I texted back with my web page address and pointed her at information on tree services around the Jackson area since I was not immediately available. Later that evening I learned that a tree service worker made a rescue attempt in the late afternoon, but "Bo" had bolted further up the tree. The tree service worked said he would return the next day for another try. On Thursday night, Leigh-Anne told me the worker did not return, but that she hoped the cold front moving in that night would force Bo out of the tree.

On Friday morning, Leigh-Anne told me that 'Bo' was still in the tree. I moved an afternoon meeting to the morning and arranged to be there later that afternoon (the University closed at 2:30 that day because of inclement weather). Snow and wintry mix showed on the radar so it would not be a pleasant rescue. When I arrived, Leigh-Anne led me to the tree. My heart sank when I saw the tree and the kitty's location. The tree was a pine tree that began bending at about 40 feet to 30 degrees off of vertical, and went up to about 80 feet. The kitty was currently at 60 feet, and the strong north wind was causing the tree to sway violently in the wind. Bo was continously crying. I decided to try hitting a tie-in point about 70 feet. My first throw bag shot caused Bo to bolt up into the very upper branches. He was in such a precarious position that I thought he was going to fall any second. I ran back to the truck and retrieved a tarp. Leigh-Anne and Betsy (teenage daughter) held the tarp, and I attempted to shoot a throwline over the upper branches so that we could shake Bo out of the tree and into the tarp. The sub-freezing weather caused by throwbag launcher to shoot shorter distances, and the high wind was making the tree top a moving target. After several attempts, I finally got a throwline over the uppermost limbs, but this caused Bo to move down the tree a bit to a more secure location. I pulled up a rope and tried to shake him down, but he would not budge.

I then tried to hit a tie-in about 70 feet, but after many failed attempts finally quit trying because of the high wind and moving tree. I then tried for a tie-in at about 60 feet and was finally successful after many attempts. I pulled up a rope and set a canopy tie. At this point we had been out there for three hours in the sub-freezing weather, and I was tired with darkness approaching. I left my rope in the tree and promised Leigh-Anne that I would return the next day.

That night, I tossed and turned with plans for the next day. I also asked for help from upstairs (which I do for every rescue), but I especially needed help for this rescue. Leigh-Anne also had her prayer group asking for help. The next morning I packed up the truck, headed out, and arrived at about 10 am. The sun was shining and the temperature was 25 degrees. When I looked at the tree, I realized that a miracle had occurred overnight. Bo had moved down to a much lower limb, and was now about 35 feet from the ground. The limb was very long, at least 20 feet. I was met by Leigh-Anne, Callie (Bo's person, college-age daughter) and Cade (teenage son). I told them that if I could keep Bo isolated on that limb, we would be able to get him down some way. During climb preparations, I also met Jeff, Leigh-Anne's husband. We discussed rescue options. A limb walk was possible, but Bo was so skittish that a capture attempt with pole or net would probably just make him jump. I could also put a live trap on the limb, but this was rejected because of the bitter cold and the length of time Bo had already spent in the tree. We decided that if Bo would not come to me, then I would cut the limb and allow it to crack downwards. The limb was so long that it drooping would significantly reduce Bo's fall distance to ground, which was soft and marshy. Cade also took charge of my net on the off chance that he would be able to catch a falling Bo.

I set a safety line in an adjacent tree, and started climbing. When I reached the limb, Bo retreated as far as he could out on the limb. I put Callie on speaker phone and she tried to coax him back to the trunk, but Bo did not budge. I rigged the limb with a rope to prevent it from falling all the way to the ground, and told everyone to stand clear. I started cutting, and soon the limb began cracking. It drooped a bit and then broke clear. From the video, it appears that Bo jumped off the limb at about 15-20 feet. He hit the ground and bounded into some nearby woods. Callie followed and quickly retrieved him from underneath a fallen tree. Callie took him inside, and later reported that Bo was fine - just tired, thirsty, and hungry. It had been a long ordeal for the family, and all were happy that it was over. Many thanks to higher powers for help on this rescue.

Aside: Was cutting the limb better than risking a fall from 35 feet? In my opinion it was the best choice for the following reason. When the limb was cut, it drooped until it was pointing nearly straight down, broke off, fell about 6 feet and then rigging caught it. Bo was riding the end of the limb the entire time. Bo separated from the limb at between 15 and 20 feet from the ground when the rigging arrested the downward fall of the limb, and began swinging the limb tip back to the tree base. Some of Bo's downward momentum had already been converted into horizontal momentum before he separated from the limb. I think this means that he had an easier fall to the ground from that point than if he had fallen the entire 35 feet.