The Vermont Departments of Fish & Wildlife and Health report the bobcat that bit two women yesterday in Hartford, VT, and a third person the day before has tested positive for rabies.  All of the individuals bitten are receiving post-exposure medical treatment, which can prevent rabies.

Bobcat Image/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Image/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Two women were attacked by a bobcat in Hartford on December 12.  Vermont State Game Wardens shot the bobcat and transported it to the Department of Health Laboratory to be tested for rabies.

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News media coverage of the story that afternoon caught the attention of a man who had stopped to take a photo of a bobcat the day before in the same area.  The bobcat had entered his car and bit him.  He also sought and received medical treatment for exposure to rabies, which can be fatal if not treated.

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“We all appreciate the rapid coverage of this story by the media which may very well have prevented the man from coming down with rabies, which is almost always fatal,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter.

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“I also want to thank our wardens and officers from the Hartford Police Department who responded quickly and professionally to resolve the problem before more people could be bitten,” added Porter.

Porter said that due to their solitary behavior and the fact that they naturally exist across the landscape at low densities, bobcats very rarely contract rabies and that this incident is not indicative of any wide-spread outbreak in Vermont’s bobcat population.

Cases of rabies are reported annually from across the state in a variety of animals most commonly in bats, fox, raccoon, and skunk.  Of the 70 bobcats tested for rabies between 2005 and 2017, five were found to have the virus.  This is the first bobcat to test positive for rabies in 2018.

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The two state departments jointly remind Vermonters to make sure their animals are vaccinated against rabies, and not to touch or pick up wild or stray animals – including baby animals – or try to make them into pets.  Doing so can put yourself or your family at risk.  It isn’t always apparent from looking at it that an animal has rabies, but any animal that is acting strangely or aggressively should also be avoided and reported.  The rabies virus is transmitted only when it is introduced into a bite or scratch wound, open cuts on the skin, or onto mucous membranes like the mouth and eyes.