Did the bobcat have to be killed?

This concerns the bobcat that found its way into the garage of a Brookfield, Massachusetts resident on Sunday 6th January 2013. It is not unusual for bobcats to wander around suburbia or into people’s yards etc. This is because people build properties on the home ranges of bobcats.

Liz (Hairless Cat) picked this story out for me. Thanks Liz. The end result of the incident was that the bobcat was shot twice with a handgun and killed.  I am questioning the killing of this cat. Not a single person in America will think me sane for questioning it!

Bobcat in a backyard

Bobcat in a backyard. Apologies: I don’t have the photographer’s name.

The Scenario in Brief

A bobcat enters a large garage. Roger Mundell, the home owner, walks into the garage to get something. We are told he “discovered” the cat in the garage. Without warning or time to get away, Mr Mundell was attacked full on. The bobcat must have jumped up to his head height because the man had scratches on his face. The cat then ran out of the garage and attacked his wife’s 15 year old nephew. Mr and Mrs Mundell then got the cat away from the 15 year old and shot the cat.

Rabies

Bobcats very rarely attack people. Wise. It is assumed that this cat had rabies. Some segments of the media have made a presumption that the cat had rabies calling it a “rabid bobcat”. That is irresponsible I think.

How common is rabies in bobcats? Well, it is rare as I understand it. The bobcat is not a reservoir species of rabies. In 2001 28 rabid bobcats were reported. That seems to be the total number in all of the United States¹. The most common animals to have rabies are the bat and raccoons, skunks, foxes and coyotes. These are rabies reservoir animals.

We don’t know if this bobcat had rabies, at this time. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the bobcat was not rabid. Why did he attack this man? What happened in the garage? The truth is we don’t know.

Perhaps Mr Mundell cornered the cat. I don’t know but that seems likely. The cat may simply have felt cornered. But if the cat was not rabid and still attacked the man the cat must have been in a state of high aggressive self-defence. Having attacked the man the cat would have remained in a state of aggression and be highly defensive transferring his aggression from the man (who may have attacked the bobcat for all I know) to the 15 year old. This lead to the bobcat’s death.

There is a question mark over why the bobcat was in the garage. Was there something in the garage that the cat thought was prey?

Avoidable?

I don’t know. But what if Mr Mundell had immediately removed himself from the garage using the same exit that he had used to enter the garage? I would suggest that he would have avoided the conflict if he had done that. From there on anything was possible to control the situation to the benefit of human and cat.

I have this feeling that Mr Mundell might have made some inadvertently inappropriate moves in the garage, which caused the cat to attack. I don’t think we have the full story. Obviously if the press do a follow-up story reporting that the cat was rabid, everything written here will be seen in a different light. However, I predict we will hear no further news about this bobcat attack (this proved incorrect).


Update: Having written the post, I have just seen that a newspaper has reported that the cat was rabid. I would like to see the results before I believe that! The basic principles of what I am saying still stand, however.


The ideal end game would have been for the cat to have continued on its way. If there had been no attack there would have been no indication it seems to me that this cat had rabies. There is no mention of any other signs of rabies. The object is surely for humans to try and live in harmony with other animals. I guess I am being ridiculously naive in saying that considering the bobcat is still widely hunted for its skin in North America.

There is a slight tendency, as far as I am concerned, for people to overreact when confronted with either the relatively small bobcat and the mountain lion. The tendency is to reach for the ever ready gun and shoot. Passive alternatives are better. Very few will agree with that simple statement.

Reference: 1. County of Los Angeles Public Health website.

Associated page: Bobcat Attack.

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Comments

Did the bobcat have to be killed? — 9 Comments

  1. I read every word, every day,but I have never commented before. I was born on August 20th, so I am a Leo. The particular August 20th I was born on, there were 5 planets in Leo, so I AM a Lioness, & I have a beautiful one tattooed on my shoulder. You are always very correct in what you say about cat nature & behavior, so I enjoy reading what you write. You said no American would think you were sane for questioning the result of the bobcat situation, so you finally provoked me to respond! You are so very right to think the bobcat was just true to his nature! We are the intruders in what was the wild! spamdetester77

    • Well, Lora, I am thrilled that you did comment because I like people like you and sometimes I feel I am an outsider and that the majority of people don’t understand me. Fortunately there are a group of regular visitors who think like each other and like me and it is a pleasure to have them around.

      We agree that the human has intruded onto wild cat home ranges and it is therefore our responsibility to respect the animal that we have pushed out or disturbed. Often we do not do that.

  2. Hi Michael,

    My guess is that the guy left out the fact that the Bobcat was cornered – with no way to exit.

    So, the Bobcat felt he had to fight for his life. The man might have even tried to shoo the Bobcat out. The Bobcat probably perceived this as an attack.

    The Bobcat attacked the 15 year old nephew because the nephew was probably so close to the exit that the Bobcat felt trapped once again and had to fight his way out a second time.

    I don’t see why they felt they had to shoot the Bobcat.

    What I don’t get is why didn’t they just scare it off? It was already outside and could have ran off easily at this point. They had to know that it knew it was outnumbered by 3 to 1. A cat (especially a small one like a Bobcat) that could run away at this point, certainly would.

    Another thing is that the cuts on that guy’s face aren’t attack cuts per se. They aren’t deep enough to be attack cuts. They’re defensive cuts. The Bobcat was just warning the guy.

    If that cat wanted to hurt that guy then that guy would have been torn to shreds and with some very deep cuts. The cat would have used his teeth once he jumped and grabbed the guy’s face. The guy wouldn’t have stood much of a chance.

    This guy is leaving out some details on purpose. He lied about the story. I think he shot the Bobcat either for the sport of it or for revenge.

    =^..^= Hairless Cat Girl =^..^=

    • I totally agree with you there – it makes more sense given the lack of details and the simple few ‘facts’ we are given. Clearly having a gun is something which entoxicates peoples minds leading them to believe they are powerful in a way that perhaps initially gets them into way more trouble than they should be in. I bet if this guy didn’t have a gun (so at the ready – what, was he carrying the damn thing? was it in his damn garage) he wouldn’t have tried to shoo it away or what have you in the first place. I personally would have gone straight outside and either waited for it to leave(having already scared it) and eventually banged on the outside of the garage walls if I really wanted him to leave in a hurry. But, by the way, if it was jyust my garage and if there was nothing dangerous in there I wouldn’t have even been in a hurry. To be totally honest I would be quite honoured to meet a bobcat just like that.

      Conclusion: guns make people think they are bigger than they really are and should be banned in the same way as they are in every other developed country in the world.

    • Agreed Liz. Thank you. the critical part of the story – what happened in the garage – lacks detail. And also, as I see it, the guy has scratches and no bites. A lot of them would have happened while they held the cat down and shot it.

      I guess, I would like to see newspaper story telling that is completely balanced in its appraisal of the behavior of cat and human. These “cat stories” rarely if ever focus on human behavior or question human behavior in the interaction between cat and human. The stories tend to justify why the cat was killed (usually shot) and the cat is often killed. They are extremely human orientated. Biased basically.

      I often feel that if people behaved differently, less aggressively and with more courage, the outcome would be better for cat and person. Let the cat go. Give the cat a chance to escape. Back off and get out. Leave the cat some space. And do it quickly.

  3. Hey guys,

    We’ve had a two rabid squirrels in Arizona in 20-30 years, so it’s not hard to imagine how rare it is. If the cat felt cornered it would most certainly go for the face. It’s just a natural instinct. You were right to question it. We just had three orphaned bobcats sent to their forever home, a Nevada Zoo. So weird to read that story this morning and than this one tonight. An animal officer should of been called and the bobcat tranq’d. Shooting without knowing is just wrong.
    Thanks Michael.

  4. I see and understand all your points, but besides wanting other people to understand one’s particular opinion/position, it is also important to try to understand the actions/motives of others. What is important here is the training that Animal Control Officers and Police Officers get, that they are likely the first-responders to incidents involving animals, MA law, and how the laws and procedures are conveyed to the public. The rule is – if you run into a situation where an animal attacks a human (especially if it is a wild animal vs. a pet), or if there is a public safety issue, then they shoot the animal. They are trained to protect the humans first. Many do not shoot randomly or without thought, and genuinely do care for the animal, but sometimes the situation presents itself differently. This was one of them. The man feared for his life, was concerned about his 15 year old nephew’s safety (who also was bitten), and reacted protectively. The dead animal was sent to the State Lab for testing which found the animal rabid (they need the brains from an animal to determine this). The man, his nephew and his wife are now being treated for rabies. Some people survive, others don’t. I am an animal lover and activist too, and hate to see this happen to a family along with having such a beautiful animal killed. But I know if this were to happen in our town, and if I didn’t have a way to protect myself, the ACO or Police would’ve killed the animal as well. Sometimes these things happen, as rare as it may seem. I don’t believe there is any reason to doubt the State’s results /story’s accuracy in reporting positive rabies.

  5. I’d like to emphasize: ACOs and Police were not involved in this shooting. I brought them up in order to convey what is the typical response in these communities. Also – they are not typically armed with tranquilizer guns. I know there is talk of arming ACOs with tasers – but I don’t know of any studies on how that might effect an animal.

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