NEW SCOTLAND — A local couple was hospitalized on Wednesday afternoon after a rabid bobcat attacked a woman on Rock Hill Road.
The attack occurred just before 4 p.m. while the woman was sitting outside a neighbor’s home, where she and her husband were picking up furniture for a garage sale. According to Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, the woman was playing with the homeowner’s dog, when she reportedly heard growling and hissing just before the 22 lb. cat lunged at her, biting her multiple times in the arms and legs before it was attacked by the dog. Hearing his wife scream, the other victim ran out of the home and was bitten several times while attempting to intervene.
According to reports, the homeowner and husband were able to pin the animal down with a kitchen chair, allowing the homeowner to get a gun and shoot it. When deputies arrived on the scene a short while later, they found a badly bleeding couple and a dead wildcat. The couple was transported to St. Peter’s Hospital for treatment and the bobcat’s body was taken by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to be tested for disease. Due to the nature of the unusual attack, state health officials initiated rabies treatment for the couple immediately, rather than wait for the test results to come back the following day.
A necropsy was performed Thursday morning at the DEC’s Wildlife Health Unit at the Wildlife Resources Center in Delmar; the adult male bobcat smelled of skunk spray and its face was covered in porcupine quills. Its head was sent to the NYS Rabies Lab at Wadsworth Lab in Guilderland, where it tested positive for the disease, according to county officials. The treatment for rabies in humans consists of a 14-day treatment, beginning as early as possible. Both victims received a rabies immune globulin compound in each individual puncture wound and rabies vaccination on Wednesday (Day 0) and must return for additional shots on the 3rd, 7th, and 14th days. They are expected to recover.
According to DEC, bobcats are typically solitary, territorial animals and can be found in a wide range of habitat types. Average size ranges from about 14 lbs for a female and about 21 lbs for a male, although weight exceeding 30 pounds is possible. Bobcats tend to feed primarily on small mammals but are capable of taking animals as large as white-tailed deer. Bobcats are not common in high numbers in any one location and typically avoid areas of high human development, but may be found anywhere suitable habitat exists. Statewide, said DEC, the bobcat population has been increasing.
Attacks on humans by healthy bobcats are exceedingly rare; human/bobcat conflicts that occur are most often related to preying on poultry or other small livestock. Uncommonly, bobcats have been documented with rabies, such as this one, and can be dangerous when afflicted. Since 1990, there have been 12 documented cases of rabid bobcats in New York state—all were a result of the raccoon variant of rabies and five involved bites/scratches to humans.
DEC tips for avoiding bobcat problems are similar to those for other wildlife:
– Don’t feed pets outdoors;
– Practice good husbandry with poultry and livestock;
– Keep small pets inside or supervised outdoors;
– Cats should be kept indoors, especially at night;
– Never try to feed or approach a bobcat, enjoy the encounter from a distance.