By Ethan Weinstein/VTDigger
When Mike Peabody heard a noise outside his home unlike any he’d heard before, he figured his cat was involved. But as he followed the commotion into his house, he encountered a different sort of feline.
“I ran into the bathroom thinking I was going to be breaking up a cat fight,” Peabody said. “But then I saw it was a bobcat.”
Peabody, 69, was standing in his yard on Central Street in Windsor around 11 a.m. Friday, May 13, when the incident began. The wild animal had cornered his cat, Grayson, in the bathroom, and kept lunging toward the pet, threatening its jugular. Acting fast, Peabody kicked the bobcat, he said, saving his cat.
“When I kicked it, it was really fast. It was on my knee with its claws. And as I was backing up, then it was coming at me with its jaw,” he said in an interview at his home on Monday, May 16.
After the initial charge, the bobcat backed off, and Peabody trapped it inside his bathroom, fastening the door shut with rope.
The bobcat punctured his knee to the bone, Peabody said, and he was transported by ambulance to Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center.
David Lockerby, a game warden, responded to the incident. The bobcat was euthanized by game wardens, he said, and later tested positive for rabies.
He said it was highly unusual for a bobcat to interact with and attack humans.
“That’s something that, you know, I may never see again in my career,” he said.
But Lockerby said he has recently received more reports of bobcat sightings. During the spring, the predators are likely to be hungry from the winter, he said, and more aggressive in their search for food. And Windsor police told WCAX that this particular bobcat was very thin.
“But certainly a situation where one is chasing a house cat in a very busy area like the middle of Windsor, and chasing one right into a house — that’s not normal behavior,” Lockerby said. He added that people should call Fish & Wildlife if they see a bobcat — or any wild animal — acting strange.
When Windsor Police Chief Jennifer Frank arrived on the scene, she said she could see the bobcat through a bathroom window. The animal had a “strong odor of skunk,” and Frank said it could have contracted rabies through contact with a skunk.
Col. Jason Batchelder, the state’s head game warden, said an average of one or two bobcats are euthanized a year in Vermont.
One was killed two towns north in Hartford in December 2018 after it bit two people and charged a game warden, the Valley News reported. It later tested positive for rabies, also.
Peabody received rabies shots at Mount Ascutney Hospital. Grayson has to quarantine inside for 45 days, but Peabody’s just glad the bobcat didn’t kill his “delicious-looking cat.”
When post-exposure medical treatment is given promptly, it is 100% effective at preventing rabies.
“I thank our wardens and officers from the Windsor Police Department who responded quickly and professionally to resolve the problem before more people could be bitten,” said Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Christopher Herrick.
Rabies is a viral disease of mammals most often transmitted through the bite of a rabid animal, the state reported in a press release after the event. The rabies virus infects the central nervous system, ultimately causing disease in the brain and death. The virus is transmitted only when it is introduced into a bite or scratch wound, open cuts on the skin, or onto mucous membranes like the mouth and eyes.
Cases of rabies are reported annually from across the state in a variety of mammals, most commonly in raccoons, skunks, bats, and foxes.
This is the first bobcat to test positive for rabies in 2022. One tested positive in 2021.
State officials remind Vermonters to make sure their animals are vaccinated against rabies, and Commissioner Herrick also urged people to not touch or pick up wild or stray animals — including baby animals — or to try to make them into pets.
“Contact with wild or stray animals — no matter how cute and harmless they may appear — can put you or your family at risk,” Herrick said. “It is not always apparent from looking at it that an animal has rabies, but any animal that is acting strangely or aggressively should be avoided and reported.”
People are urged to call the Vermont Rabies Hotline for information about rabies or to report any animal which may be sick with the disease at 1-800-4-RABIES (1-800-472-2437).