Bobcat expert explains the totally bonkers video of suburban attack everyone is watching

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.


But that's not all. After he hurls the wild animal away from him, he pulls a handgun—that's right, a handgun—from his hip and yells, "I'm gonna shoot the f*cker!" as he chases it around the yard. The last thing we see is the bobcat running under the car and the man running around it, gun in hand, yelling "A bobcat just attacked my wife!"

Still modern Americana, honestly, but on a whole other level.

The video has been viewed more than 10 million times on Twitter. Undoubtedly, many of those views are looped viewings because there's nothing funnier than seeing this bobcat-throwing, handgun-wielding, f-bomb-dropping man go from an adrenaline-fueled, "A bobcat just attacked my wife!" straight back to a chipper "Good mornin!" without missing a beat.

It's just the kind of real-life drama we've come to expect these days—too wild and too unbelievable to even pass muster in a TV drama writing room. That would never really happen. It's too over the top. The guy is packing heat while sing-songing "Good mornin!" in his suburban driveway? Come on. Let's tone it down a little.

In reality, though, the whole encounter begs for an explanation. Thankfully, a bobcat expert chimed in on Twitter to offer just that.

Imogene Cancellare is a conservation biologist who spent years studying wild bobcats, and she was happy to have the opportunity to talk about her area of expertise.

"I feel like I've been training for this my whole life," she wrote.


She wrote:

"Bobcats are medium-sized felids that range from southern Canada thru most of the contiguous US down to Oaxaca, Mexico. They thrive in a variety of habitats, from swamps to deserts to mountains, and can survive alongside urban environments.

As habitat generalists, they also have a generalist diet and will eat all manner of small rodents, rabbits and hares, birds, squirrels, and even deer (brave adults only). They are solitary-ish, but collar data suggests, like many carnivores, they tolerate others fairly well.

Bobcats are primarily crepuscular, which means they are most active at dusk and dawn. They spend a lot of time resting during the middle of the day, but it's not out of the ordinary for them to be out and about, nor indicative of illness if you see one."

Let's just pause for a moment to appreciate the word "crepuscular." Brilliant.

Continuing on:

"Bobcats are opportunistic hunters and will kill small pets, but I'm not sure how common it is for them to actually eat a pet dog or cat vs killing it to eliminate a threat. Carnivores do that sometimes, sorry.

"Bobcats are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, tho some research suggests populations are declining in much of the US. They are often hunted without limits, both as non-game animals and furbearers. One issue that's becoming concerning: anticoagulant rodenticides.

Long-term research on California bobcats found that 90% of the cats tested positive for anticoagulant rodenticide post-mortem. The cause: eating rodents in urban areas that have ingested rat poison. This doesn't always kill the cats, but it does make them sick.

Bobcats can contract feline distemper from unvaccinated domestic and feral cats. They can also contract rabies. The CDC doesn't list them a main vector in the US, and many biologists think these animals rarely survive rabies to the point of attacking people."

Stopping to add here that the bobcat in the video was later caught and killed by authorities, and did, in fact, have rabies. So obviously a super rare occurrence, but not impossible. Also not the only reason to avoid an encounter with a bobcat, as Cancellare explained:

"That said, a bobcat doesn't have to be sick to totally ruin your day. When I was live-trapping bobcats, as with any animal, we took extreme care to ensure the safety of both human and animal. The reality is if a bobcat bit down on my hand, I'd be unlikely to use it again.

"But, bobcats don't normally seek out humans. Most interactions we hear about are with cornered animals found in buildings, or when pets are attacked. Bobcats are intense, loud, and obnoxious, but they are defensive animals, not offensive animals.

In the video that's currently trending, it looks to be a juvenile cat. I initially thought it was underneath their car and got spooked, but some have pointed out that the cat first crosses the street and runs into the woman, then grabbing onto her legs.

I'm not here to say what the man should or shouldn't have done—having been screamed at by bobcats myself, I totally understand their panic. Tossing the cat as he did isn't great, but what are you supposed to do when you grab onto an apex carnivore like that?"

So glad she said that, because more than a few people have chastised the man for chucking the cat. It had just attacked his wife. The instinct to throw it was totally understandable.

As for rabies and what to do if you find yourself face-to-face with a wild bobcat, Cancellare went on:

Rabies is not common in bobcats, but we have seen a rise in cases in the last few years. Unfortunately when these interactions occur, few options exist.

The only way to test for rabies is to examine the brain tissue, which means killing the animal.

Both people in the video will likely get a rabies vaccination series. If the cat can be trapped, it will likely be euthanized.

It's also possible the cat was running from something across the street and got surprised by the woman and attacked her.

Some people are also saying she was holding a pet carrier with a cat in it. I haven't verified that but it seems like a reach behaviorally for a bobcat to cross the street to attack a cat with humans around.

Sidenote: bobcats don't hybridize with domestic cats. A bobcat is very unlikely to charge you. If it does, it may feel cornered, be protecting young, or, in rare cases, have rabies.

With 1 inch claws and 1 inch canines, a bobcat attack risks deep lacerations. You'd need stitches, but it's unlikely a bobcat could kill a human. If you are approached by an aggressive bobcat, make loud noises, wave your arms, and throw things at it.

I would also stomp loudly a few ft in its direction as a bluff charge. The goal is to appear bigger and madder so the animal decides you aren't worth it.

If you are attacked by a bobcat, keep it off your face and neck. Not because the animal is going to suffocate you by biting you, but because you could lose an eye. The claws are just as effective as the teeth.

I feel bad for the bobcat in the video because he got THROWN, but we're not going to vilify the guy for protecting his wife. If I was holding a bobcat that was trying to bite me, I would absolutely throw it away from me!"

"The best way to reduce the spread of rabies in your area, for any species and for any rabies variant, is to

1. vaccinate your pets and

2. not feed wildlife, or feral domestic pets.

When animals congregate, they are more likely to contract disease. I don't have tips on identifying rabid animals as there is a lot of variation between species and among individuals. An aggressive animal (comes to you) is more likely to be rabid than a defensive animal (trying to get away from you), but not always."

Well, you learn something new every day. It's just not usually because a guy dropped his brownies and pulled a handgun on a rabid bobcat after throwing it across his front yard. It's just too much. Thank goodness for security camera footage, because no one would believe this tale without it.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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