Missing Bobcat Back In Pen At Reflection Riding; Suspect Cited To Jail

Monday, June 17, 2019
Evi takes her first bite of food from her keeper Taylor Berry after returning home on Monday morning
Evi takes her first bite of food from her keeper Taylor Berry after returning home on Monday morning
- photo by Reflection Riding website

Evi, the missing bobcat from Reflection Riding, has returned, and a suspect in her disappearance has been cited to court.

Reflection Riding officials identified the suspect as Cayden Melia, 21. He has 30 days in which to report to jail. 

Melia reportedly confessed to the break-in, saying he "made a drunken mistake." He said he planned to play with the animals.

Another person was with him, but has not been identified.

Evi disappeared last Monday evening. She is now back, having walked into her enclosure Monday around 11 a.m. 

She was spotted several times by Reflection Riding game cameras, eating the food put out for her. 

A tip last week helped identify one of the suspects and told officials that Evi was probably in the forest around the nature center. This led the investigation to change from looking for a captive Evi to encouraging her to return to her enclosure. 

The Chattanooga Police Department, the National Park Service, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and TWRA are working together to arrest the two individuals thought responsible.

Officials said on Monday, "After a week of finding her way around the surrounding forest, Evi found her way back to the Reflection Riding native animal exhibit. She was spotted this morning by one of our educators, waiting patiently by her gate, and has been resting since her return.

"She's lost a good amount of weight, but otherwise seems to be healthy. Evi couldn't have better caretakers than our Wildlife Director Tish Gailmard and her keeper Taylor Berry, and will be recovering under their watch. 

"We're so appreciative of the community support and all the concern we've heard over the past week while we searched for our beloved girl. Remember: wild animals are not good pets! We will continue to post updates as the search for the perpetrators continues, and in the meantime we'll continue to celebrate Evi's return."

Evi has been hiding out in her cave after unexpectedly having a week in the wild
Evi has been hiding out in her cave after unexpectedly having a week in the wild
- photo by Reflection Riding website

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