A national television network covered the brutal attack of a northern state resident by a predator many North Carolinians are familiar with - the bobcat. When the man opened the door to his garage he was attacked by the full-grown bobcat. The man survived but not without getting thoroughly scratched up.
Wildlife authorities that investigated this case said the bobcat was accidentally trapped in the garage. When the man opened the door, the animal saw a chance to escape and took it. The cat saw the man as an obstacle and fought tooth and nail to escape the garage.
After the bobcat escaped, he was shot and killed by another local, who also sustained minor injuries. The bobcat is being tested for rabies.
While attacks on humans by one of North Carolina’s most feared predators are rare, they are by no means unheard of.
About 15 years ago a turkey hunter was calling a big gobbler in southern Wake County and also had a surprising encounter with an adult bobcat. The well-camouflaged hunter was sitting against a tree and making noises like a love struck hen turkey when he suddenly found himself face to face with black spotted fur and sharp claws. The bobcat had stalked this “wild turkey hen” and attempted to make a meal of the unusually large “turkey.”
The surprised and frightened turkey hunter won the battle but found that an aroused bobcat is very capable of doing a lot of damage.
Luckily, in this case, the bobcat quickly found that this “turkey” was not going to stop without a fight. The bobcat escaped this encounter unscathed. The hunter did not. His face was badly scratched, but no life threatening injuries were sustained.
It isn’t unusual for humans to come in contact with bobcats in our state. This is particularly true with deer hunters who have a passion for sitting high in trees quietly watching for that big buck. The hunters who have a chance to see a bobcat under their tree stand usually pass up the chance to kill the bobcat because the sound of a shot would scare off any deer in the area. If they should decide to kill the bobcat, they need to be aware that there is a hunting season for bobcats in our North Carolina. This season opens around October 15th each year and closes near February 28 of the following year. There are no daily or seasonal bag limits on bobcats.
Twice in my life I’ve come across bobcat kittens in the wild. The first time this happened was about 30 years ago when, noted outdoor writer, Bob Simpson and I were hunting deer near Swan Lake in Hyde County.
I was walking out of the thick woods at lunchtime and passed under an overhanging tree limb along the trail. I caught a flicker of movement just above my head and saw three bobcat kittens peacefully sleeping in the sun. It would have made a wonderful photo but, as it usually happens, my camera was back in the car a few hundred feet away. I ran for the car, grabbed the camera and returned to the spot but the kittens were gone.
More recently, my wife and I were taking a leisurely Sunday ride at our Beaufort County farm and saw what at first looked like three half grown rabbits playing in the grassy roadway. We slowly drove forward and stopped about twenty feet away from the three “rabbits” when I clearly saw that these weren’t rabbits at all. These young bobcats were rolling around and playing much the same as you would expect domestic kittens to do. We were treated to their antics for several minutes before they either sensed that we represented a threat or the nearby mother bobcat called them away.
Along with increasing numbers of coyotes, foxes and hawks, the bobcats in our state probably represent a major threat to the declining numbers of rabbits and quail. While small animals represent the major food source to bobcats, coyotes and red wolves down east, these medium-sized predators also kill a significant number of our whitetail deer.
Our wildlife managers urge the public not to pick up wounded or sick wild animals, but to take them to a veterinarian for treatment. A lot of well-intentioned locals feel sorry for these animals and want to help them, but it is best to leave animals like this to the experts. Rabies among these populations of wild animals are reported every year and this alone should deter the general public from picking up sick or wounded animals. This includes bobcats.
These warnings were ignored by a woman in Maine last December when she stopped her car to pick up what looked like a large domestic cat laying wounded along a highway. The animal was barely alive when she put it in her car to take it to the local veterinarian, but after it rested in the back seat of her warm car this “pet cat” came to and decided it wanted to vacate the car.
The situation quickly developed into a question of which of the two occupants of the car could get out quicker. The woman was first with the adult bobcat following close behind. Luckily the woman was not hurt, but the wounded wildcat was still injured and took refuge under the car. Wildlife officers were called to the scene and, after determining that the bobcat was badly hurt, put it out of its misery.