STOW, Maine — Two incidents this week involving attacks believed to be by the same possibly rabid bobcat are being investigated by the Maine Warden Service of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Stow Selectman John Plowden, 52, and his son, Justin, 17, of Union Hill Road, were attacked at their barn by a bobcat Wednesday night.
The following day, about 2 1/2 miles away, Cheryl and Skip Moody of reported that their dog, Cleo, had been attacked at the back of their Lovell home.
As a precaution, both Plowdens are being treated for rabies.
The Moodys’ 13-year-old mixed-breed dog died Friday, according to Cheryl Moody.
The cause of Cleo’s death wasn’t clear-cut, Moody said. “Cleo was old with limited time. (But) I am sure (the attack) was a factor,” she told the Sun Friday.
She said she notified the Game Warden’s office and the Fryeburg Veterinary Hospital after her dog’s death.
Following the incidents, area residents are being urged to be cautious and on the lookout for the bobcat, said Maine Warden Service Media Specialist John MacDonald.
MacDonald said that while although officers are not yet sure whether the same animal was involved in both attacks, judging by its unusual behavior they think it probably was one and the same.
“We are telling people to be on the watch if they spot a bobcat acting strangely, particularly in this area,” he said.
“We would probably put the animal down and investigate if it had rabies. It is fairly common at this time of year to see them as they are hungry and they are coming near people’s houses to get a meal — but with this week’s incidents, for it to be aggressive and come after humans is not common at all,” he said.
Moody said the bobcat she saw on her porch appeared to have porcupine quills sticking out of its face, but MacDonald said the bobcat involved in the Plowden incident did not have the quills, so he said it remains unclear if it was the same animal.
John Plowden said the bobcat that attacked them looked to have weighed about 25 pounds.
“It was a lean-looking cat. He had no fear. But there was no foaming of the mouth, contrary to one news report,” he said.
Plowden said his wife, Carolynn Plowden, and Justin were driving home around 7 p.m. Wednesday when they spotted a bobcat in the the road a short distance from their Union Hill home.
They stopped and took some photographs, then drove home. A few minutes later, they were told by neighbor Steve Snow that a bobcat was heading toward their home through the woods.
The animal began attacking a blue tarp in the driveway, according to Plowden.
It appeared to have no fear of the Plowdens’ three dogs, who were barking from inside their home.
Plowden said his family watched as the bobcat made its way to their barn. Plowden and Justin shut the back door of the barn, leaving the animal inside with just one exit so they could keep an eye on it. Plowden then called Maine Game Wardens to confirm that it was in fact a bobcat and not a lynx (which is a protected endangered species).
“I have chickens in the barn. I wanted authorization to be able to dispatch this animal that was acting strangely and endangering my animals,” said Plowden.
The bobcat was walking back and forth in the barn, then went to a back room, where there was hay. “It started purring loudly, like a kitten. I am not kidding,” said Plowden.
Outside, the Plowdens waited about 20 feet from the barn with their neighbor when, John said, “it came out and took a step toward me, so I backed off — then it took three steps, crouched down and jumped 10 feet from Justin and landed on his face, with his paws on Justin’s back!”
Plowden said he reached up and grabbed the cat by the scruff of its neck, forcing it to release its bite. The bobcat then “did a cat turn on me, and clawed me with its front paws,” said Plowden.
As the bobcat turned and ran, Snow took several shots from a distance of 30-50 feet. Snow tried to follow the animal but was unable to locate it in the woods by the road, Plowden said.
Shortly thereafter, Chris Barboza of the Maine Game Warden Service and Matt Baker of the Oxford County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene, along with Fryeburg Rescue EMTs Bill Kane and Troy Turcotte.
“They cleaned us up. We didn’t take the ambulance.” Plowden said they drove themselves to Memorial Hospital, where they received treatment for rabies.
Moody said her dog Cleo was sitting at the back door of their home on Friday morning, when she heard the dog yelp.
“I rushed to the door and could not comprehend what I was seeing for about two seconds,” Moody said, relating she saw her dog being attacked by a bobcat.
“So, I did the only sensible thing. I grabbed the bobcat by the nape of the neck and tried to pry it off Cleo,” she said.
“I grabbed a boot tray from the railing and kept bashing the cat until it let go. I then flung that cat 12-15 feet across the yard.” Still, the bobcat wouldn’t give up, “so I had to go after it, beating on it until it decided to leave,” Moody said.
If anyone in the area has seen a bobcat, they should report the sighting to the Maine Warden Service in Gray, Maine, at (207) 657-3030.