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Authorities Kill Bobcat After Two Attacks

  • Vermont Fish and Wildlife Warden Asa Sargent moves a dead bobcat to his truck in White River Junction, Vt., to be taken to a state laboratory where it will be tested for rabies and other disease Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The animal was killed minutes earlier after attacking a person at the state office building on Prospect Street and is believed to be the same bobcat from an earlier attack on Candlelight Terrace in Wilder, Vt. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vermont Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Keith Gallant, left, and Warden Kyle Isherwood, right, document the scene where a bobcat was shot outside the building that houses Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire and Christian Roy's Salon on Prospect Street in White River Junction, Vt., Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The bobcat attacked a person at the state office building and is believed to be the same animal that bit a woman on her porch over 2.5 miles away in Wilder earlier in the day. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Sgt. Keith Gallant, of Vermont Fish and Wildlife, takes samples of residue and hair off a sliding glass door on Candlelight Terrace in Wilder, Vt., at the site of a bobcat attack Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The victim of the attack was taken to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vermont Fish and Wildlife Warden Kyle Isherwood and three of his colleagues were beginning to follow the tracks of a bobcat through a marsh in Wilder, Vt., he got a radio call of another reported attack by a bobcat over four miles away on Prospect Street in White River Junction, Vt., on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Isherwood drove to the scene where Hartford Police helped locate the animal and it was shot when rushing at a warden. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A fresh bobcat track sits next to the boot-print of a Vermont Fish and Wildlife Warden in a marshy area near Candlelight Terrace in Wilder, Vt., where a woman was the victim of an unprovoked attack from a bobcat earlier on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lt. Dennis Amsden, of Vermont Fish and Wildlife, holsters his handgun after firing once into a bobcat to insure that it was dead after a fellow warden shot it as it rushed at him in a Prospect Street parking lot in White River Junction, Vt., Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. The animal may have had rabies when it attacked and bit a person at the state office building nearby. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • A shotgun shell lies beside a blood trail where Vermont Fish and Wildlife wardens killed and recovered a bobcat suspected to have rabies in White River Junction, Vt., Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. Three people were reportedly attacked by the animal. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials captured and killed a bobcat believed to be rabid in White River Junction, Vt., on Dec. 12, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

White River Junction — A bobcat that had bitten two people in Hartford was shot and killed on Wednesday morning as it charged a state game warden in the parking lot near the state office building on Prospect Street.

“It’s a pretty safe assumption that it’s the same animal,” said Lt. Dennis Amsden, southern district chief of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, who led the investigation.

State officials and Hartford police had tracked the animal from Wilder Village to the parking lot along the Connecticut River in downtown White River Junction.

Both victims went to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center to receive treatment for injuries that were not considered life-threatening.

It is not yet known whether the bobcat was rabid. Its body was being transported to Colchester, Vt., for testing and Amsden said he expected that state officials would have results by today. If the bobcat did not have rabies, there are other diseases that could cause it to act similarly, Amsden said.

The first reported victim was attacked while sitting on a porch outside her apartment complex on Candlelight Terrace in Wilder, Amsden said. The woman sustained bites to her legs and lower back.

“We were investigating that when we got a call that it happened over here,” Amsden said from the scene at the Prospect Street office buildings, where a second woman was bitten on the hand.

Lebanon resident Bill Martin, who works for the Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire on Prospect Street, said he was heading toward his truck to go to lunch when he witnessed the second attack.

“I came out the door and heard this woman screaming,” he said, adding that she was able to kick the bobcat away before running back inside one of the buildings.

“This thing was jumping at the door trying to get in,” Martin said. “It was going nuts, making ungodly amounts of noise.”

Martin said other people who were outside at the time quickly went inside as well, and he took shelter in his pickup truck.

Fish and Wildlife was notified about the first attack around 10 a.m. The second attack occurred about an hour later, said Col. Jason Batchelder, director of enforcement for Fish and Wildlife.

“It’s extraordinarily rare. Not only for the attack, but for us to become aware of a rabid bobcat,” Batchelder said. “They just don’t seem to contract this disease as frequently. As wardens, we don’t encounter them as much as other animals.”

Six Fish and Wildlife wardens, including Amsden, and at least three Hartford police officers, who also had been attempting to track the bobcat following the earlier attack in Wilder, quickly arrived on the scene.

“The animal was underneath a car,” Amsden said. “It then charged at one of our officers, who shot it and killed it.”

The officer used a shotgun to stop the bobcat, which Amsden estimated weighed between 20 and 25 pounds. The department currently is investigating how many shots were fired. Yellow police tape blocked off a portion of the parking lot as wardens stayed around the scene. Batchelder said the warden fired six shots.

“All that was done in the greatest of caution,” he said.

“The warden was, for all purposes, defending himself at the time,” Batchelder said. “We wanted to be cautious of other bystanders.”

Because the animal was still moving, Amsden said, he took the bobcat’s body to a nearby snowbank and fired a final shot with a handgun.

Officers were not searching for additional bobcats.

“Being so rare and so infrequent, we would be extraordinarily surprised if this wasn’t the same animal” in both reported attacks, Batchelder said.

Part of the reason is that bobcats are solitary animals, making it unlikely that diseases like rabies are spreading to multiple rabid bobcats in the same area.

“(It’s) very unlikely for them to spread it to another bobcat. That wouldn’t be a concern of ours,” Batchelder said.

While he acknowledged that a rabid bobcat epidemic is a possibility, he said it’s an unlikely one.

“In the instances when we have a rabid animal, we never have outbreaks. We don’t have them showing up in great numbers,” he said.

The Hartford Police Department echoed the all-clear.

“Although not impossible, it’s even less likely to have multiple infections in the same area and time frame. Inasmuch, this appears to be an isolated occurrence, and we’re grateful for the professional assistance provided by Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials,” Hartford Police Chief Phil Kasten said in an email. “Because the bobcat favors small animals, it is likely the bobcat involved in today’s events was exposed through contact with a skunk or raccoon during its normal course of survival.”

Kasten asked residents to remain aware of animals that show symptoms of “behavior changes, such as aggressiveness, drooling or disorientation are the best indicator of a rabies infection.”

Kim Royar, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Department, said Vermont has “a pretty crude estimate of 2,000-3,000” bobcats.

“They’re quite healthy and doing well,” she said. “They’re around in every town around the state. Most of us don’t even know they’re there because they’re very well-hidden.”

Bustling White River Junction, where the office complex is located, is not a place bobcats would usually frequent, according to Royar.

“A sick bobcat is probably not going to be fearful of people and would end up in areas a healthy bobcat would avoid,” Royar said.

As with other animals, people should exercise caution around bobcats.

“People always need to be aware of wildlife in general and not assume that they want to be friends,” Amsden said. “We don’t get a lot of wildlife attacking people unprovoked.”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.

Correction

Candlelight Terrace in Wilder is about 2.5 miles from Prospect Street in downtown White River Junction. An earlier photo accompanying this story overstated the distance between the two points.