TOP SECRET ANIMAL ATTACK FILES
Special Report forwarded by AAF Correspondent: Pat Johnson
from Pioneer Planet, St. Paul, MN
of Human May be First in Minnesota
Cass County woman not seriously hurt
Friday, July 21, 2000
CHRIS NISKANEN OUTDOORS EDITOR
A wild bobcat attacked and injured a rural Cass County woman last week as she walked across her yard, reading her satellite TV guide.
Diana Marks, who lives on Big Thunder Lake near Remer, Minn., apparently startled the bobcat as it was attacking a stray house cat on her lawn July 14.
``I yelled at the cats, and that's when I noticed one was very, very large and had its ears laid back,'' Marks said. ``It flew at me from 10 feet away and got my arm.''
Wildlife authorities say it may be the first attack of its kind in Minnesota, where bobcats are known to roam close to rural homes and occasionally prey on house cats.
The 49-year-old woman suffered puncture wounds and claw marks on her left hand and arm. She didn't require stitches but is being treated for rabies as a precaution. It's unknown whether the bobcat was diseased.
A predator expert with the Department of Natural Resources said he has never heard of a bobcat attacking a human since he began working for the agency in 1974. There are approximately 2,000 to 3,000 bobcats in Minnesota, mostly in the northern part of the state.
``But bobcats can live amazingly close to people and people don't know it,'' said DNR researcher Bill Berg.
Marks was returning from her mailbox around 2:30 p.m. when she came across the two cats fighting in her yard. She recalls not paying attention to the commotion because she was immersed in a TV guide article about the Minnesota Vikings' coming football season.
After the bobcat attacked her, it jumped away and ran into the woods. The cat, which she estimated weighed to 20 to 25 pounds, left six puncture wounds and scratches on her left hand and arm. Her husband was sleeping on the couch with a fan on when she rushed into the house screaming and bleeding.
``She came bolting through the door and was gushing with blood,'' said her husband, Pat Jones. ``She was hysterical.''
Berg believes Marks startled the bobcat while it was trying to kill the stray house cat. He believes the bobcat instinctively leaped on Marks when she interrupted the battle.
``When animals are fighting like that, they become very focused on the fight,'' he said. ``I'm sure this wasn't an intentional attack on a human.''
Berg keeps a bobcat skull on his desk. When told of the size and distance between Marks' puncture wounds, he said they were consistent with a bobcat's teeth.
Bobcats are known to prey on house cats because they view them as competitors for food, Berg said. Bobcats are brownish-golden, have a short, stubby tail and usually weigh between 20 and 30 pounds. Larger specimens can weigh up to 44 pounds.
Marks stands about 5 feet 1 and weighs 130 pounds.
``She's kind of lucky,'' Berg said. ``We use the utmost caution when we capture and handle them. They're a ball of fury. If that bobcat had attacked with malicious intent, it could have seriously maimed her.''
There hasn't been an effort to capture the bobcat. Given the rarity of the incident, Berg said it was very unlikely the bobcat would attack again.
However, the bobcat returned to Marks' yard and was spotted by her husband just an hour after the attack.
``I got a good look at it from 30 yards,'' Jones said. ``I grabbed my gun and threw a couple of shells in it, but the bobcat ran away.''
Berg speculated it was still looking for the stray cat.
Jones said a bobcat had apparently been prowling the Big Thunder Lake area in recent days. A neighbor had spotted one on his roof the night before, where it had apparently cornered another domestic cat.
Jones said a bobcat and two bobcat kittens appeared near their home last summer. One of their house cats disappeared soon afterward.
The stray cat, Marks said, had been hanging around their house in recent days and had been adopted by a neighbor who named it Bud.
Bud suffered several puncture wounds on its neck but apparently survived.
Marks, though, is still shaken by the incident and now looks more closely in the woods when she walks to the mailbox.
``I'm still a little spooked by the whole thing,'' she said. ``Actually, it has spooked a lot of people around here.''
There is a trapping and hunting season for bobcats in Minnesota, starting in early December. About 100 to 300 are taken annually by hunters and trappers.
© 2000 PioneerPlanet / St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press