A bobcat attack on a person, I would assume, is very rare for the simple reason that we are not naturally prey to a bobcat. How can we be? But the bobcat is pretty courageous and has been known to attack animals much larger than itself. Over much of its range it relies on rabbits and hares (snowshoe hares) for prey. The majority of prey weighs less than 2 kilograms. Other prey include:
- deer (north-eastern USA). These are much larger (see chart below of the weights of a sample of deer attacked). The bobcat kills larger prey by a series of quick bites to the throat, neck or base of the skull.
- mountain beavers
- cotton rats
- wood rats….
..to name some examples. However, there is evidence that a bobcat can, on its own, kill prey that weighs ten times its own weight. The largest adult male bobcat weighed about 27 kilograms (59 pounds src: Sunquists). In the extreme and theoretically, ten times that weight would make 590 pounds so a person, particularly a smallish women (say 110 pounds in weight) would on the face of it be acceptable prey under the right circumstances.
And the right circumstances seems to have occurred in the first example of a bobcat attack on a person. It happened on 17th December 2007 in Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley:
Furnace Creek Inn, Death Valley – photo by wehardy
It seems that, in this first example, a group of people were sitting near a fire minding their own business after a swim (in the Furnace Inn swimming pool I presume). A 64 year old women was amongst them. She was attacked in an unprovoked manner and she had not been feeding the bobcat. She was scratched and bitten and given a rabies jab. But the story is that a European women who had been working in the kitchen had been feeding bobcats thereby habituating them to humans and facilitating the bobcat attack (source: nationalparkstraveler.com). This underlying reason for this bobcat attack would then be human behaviour. I think that it is fair to say that people, in the long term, have the biggest impact on the behaviour of wild cats.
In the second example, a man of 62 years of age killed a bobcat that attacked him. He was simply pulling his trashcans back to his house – nothing provocative. The attack took place in Wesley Chapel, Florida. What provoked this attack was the fact that the bobcat had rabies. He managed to kill the cat by strangulation (source: foxnews.com). If I was being a bit tough on the human race I could argue that the underlying cause of this bobcat attack was, once again, people as it is possible today to eradicate rabies in a country with the proper controls and commitment. An example is the UK.
The third example concerns a man in Hermantown, USA:
This man, Gary Lucia, kept ducks in his garage at night for protection. He was in his garage with his ducks (except for one, who had been killed by the bobcat as far as I can see) when a bobcat came into the garage for the ducks as prey. Gary defended them and was attacked as a consequence. He sustained a bite to the head, scratches and a rabies jab afterwards. Yes, a bit scary but the comments to the article that reported this incident concur with me. This was a bobcat behaving normally going after prey. It was just one of those things. Of course, the neighbourhood got scared and set traps but why punish the bobcat for behaving naturally? In setting traps and wishing to kill this cat we are accepting that we cannot live with other wild animals of this size and type. Sad don’t you think? A lot of visitors won’t think it is sad but I do.
In conclusion, I see a lot of influence from the activities of people that underpins these attacks. We need to look at ourselves as to the causes. We need to think about how we can avoid bobcat attacks by taking better proactive measures. It is in our hands as usual. The following map shows the range of the bobcat, meaning where it is to be found and where attacks might take place:
Below is a table that shows the size of a sample of deer that were attacked by bobcat in Vermont. The deer sampled were quite a lot bigger than the American bobcat that attacked them which supports the argument that these courageous cats will attack prey much larger than themselves. This in turn opens the door to the possibility that they can attack us. That means we need to be vigilant and take proactive measures. It is in our hands to manage the situations under which a potential attack can take place to both avoid injury to ourselves and the cat.
|Sample of 37 deer killed by bobcats in Vermont – Foot LE 1945 The Vermont deer herd: A study in productivity|
|Number of deer||Weights|
|6||less than 23 kilograms|
|22||between 23 and 34 kilograms|
|8||between 45 and 67 kilograms|
|largest||68 kilogram buck (149 pounds)|