80-year-old woman fights off rabid bobcat

  • Gene Dabrowski's 80-year-old mother Elsie was attacked by a rabid bobcat as she was on the way out to her chicken coop.

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  • Gene Dabrowski's 80-year-old mother Elsie was attacked by a rabid bobcat as she was on the way out to her chicken coop.

  • Gene Dabrowski's 80-year-old mother Elsie was attacked by a rabid bobcat as she was on the way out to her chicken coop.

  • Gene Dabrowski's 80-year-old mother Elsie was attacked by a rabid bobcat as she was on the way out to her chicken coop.

Monitor staff
Published: 6/26/2017 11:47:49 PM

As she typically does around dusk on her Sunapee farm, 80-year-old Elsie Dabrowski went to pen up her chickens last night. Then, sickle in hand, she got to weeding a nearby rosebush.

That’s when a rabid bobcat lunged from the thicket, biting her left cheek and lacerating her arms and back, she said.

Her son, Gene Dabrowski, who lives in a house on the same property about a hundred yards away, ran over with a shotgun when he heard the noise the farm’s five dogs were making.

“It wasn’t like normal dog play,” he said. “So I knew something was wrong.”

He found his mother climbing back onto her porch, her face bloodied. She’d fought the bobcat off with the sickle, and the dogs had leapt into the fray, chasing the cat under the chicken coop.

Gene Dabrowski killed the cat with his shotgun, and then drove his mother to New London Hospital, where she received “50 to 60” stitches, he said.

“We got home from the hospital at 4 a.m. At 7:15 this morning she went back outside to feed her animals,” he said.

State wildlife officials picked up the animal carcass Monday morning to have it tested. Gene Dabrowski wrote in an email that afternoon to say that health officials had already called to confirm it was rabid.

Dabrowski, an experienced trapper, had suspected as much – the bobcat had porcupine quills in its mouth, and healthy cats know to keep away from the prickly rodent.

His mother was at the Manchester VA Medical Center awaiting a rabies shot, he said, and the dogs had already gone in for boosters.

New Hampshire Fish and Game wildlife biologist Patrick Tate said that there are anywhere between 2,500 and 3,000 bobcats in the summertime in New Hampshire.

The population is growing at a rate of about 10 percent each year, he said, and the department gets several calls each week about bobcats wandering into residential areas.

“Close contact to humans has become very common,” Tate said – although aggression is still extremely rare.

The last time a bobcat tested positive for rabies in New Hampshire was 2013, Tate said. That year, two did – one that tried to pounce on a pair of turkey hunters, and another that attacked a pet dog.

Tate said there had been a few reports of rabid bobcats in Connecticut and Massachusetts in recent years. That, together with increased sightings of the animal, suggests that the bobcat population is reaching “biological carrying capacity” in the region, he said.

As an area becomes overpopulated, predators’ populations will self-regulate, mostly through disease and starvation, Tate said.

After being in decline decades ago, the bobcat population in the Northeat has been steadily rising since 1989, when hunting and trapping the animal was banned.

(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)




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