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Fear not the bobcat (Commentary)

  • In recent days, a video of a rabid bobcat that attacked a couple in North Carolina has been picked up by global news outlets including The New York Times and amassed more than 12 million views online.
  • Mark Elbroch, Puma Program Director at Panthera, a wildcat conservation group, writes that while the attack was “frightening”, such behavior is “abnormal.”
  • Accordingly, Elbroch writes, we shouldn’t “allow unnecessary fear of our wild neighbors mar our connection with nature and wild cats.”
  • This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

The video of a bobcat attacking a couple in North Carolina is frightening, and we wish them a hasty recovery.

Rest assured, however, that such behavior – and the infection of wild cats with rabies – is abnormal. Although rare, attacks from rabid bats, raccoons and skunks are more likely.

Screen grab of the bobcat video posted by The New York Times.

Healthy wild cats don’t bother people. Overwhelmingly, wild cat encounters in the United States leave the two-legged awestruck, clutching their phones to snap photos rather than calling 911.

“When cats attack” moments are characteristically the result of unique circumstances, like the Utah jogger charged by a female puma to drive him away from her kittens.

Viral videos capturing outlier acts of aggression paint inaccurate portraits of hostile carnivores, rather than accurately illustrating their elusive nature and roles strengthening ecosystems supporting human life.

Bobcat in the snow. Photo credit: Nick Garbutt

In celebrating Earth Day this week, let’s not allow unnecessary fear of our wild neighbors mar our connection with nature and wild cats.

Mark Elbroch is Panthera‘s Puma Program Director