Bobcats Attack Two at Death Valley National Park

Bobcats, felines that are only about 25-30 pounds, recently attacked two humans at Death Valley National Park. Photo by ucumari via Flickr.

Think of Death Valley wildlife and you think of....well, rattlesnakes perhaps. But the national park has a population of bobcats, as a visitor and Furnace Creek resort employee learned recently when they were attacked by two of the felines.

Park officials say that on December 17th a bobcat attacked a visitor at the Furnace Creek Inn. Rangers found that a 64-year-old woman had suffered scratches and bites on her hands, face and scalp. For several days thereafter, there were numerous bobcat sightings around the inn and resort, according to Aaron Shandor, the park's acting chief ranger.

Rangers saw several bobcats that showed signs of habituation to humans, but were unable to determine which one was responsible for the attack.

On Friday, December 21st, rangers responded to another report of a bobcat attack at the inn. A male employee of the resort had reportedly been smoking outside the building when the bobcat attacked him, inflicting bites and lacerations to his head and neck.

Since the attack occurred on private property, California Fish and Game and the Inyo County Sheriff's Office were notified. Fish and Game officers asked the park to euthanize the bobcat to ensure public safety. Necropsy results, received last week, revealed that the animal was not suffering from rabies.

Rangers and Fish and Game officers found that several resort employees had been feeding wildlife, greatly contributing to the bobcats' habituation and aggressive behavior.

Comments

Encroaching is nothing new to hear about. I lived in Estes Park, just outside Rocky Mountain National
Park; it is wild, naturally..many Mountain Lions there. I lived most recently in Dallas Texas. There is a nature preserve area called Arbor Hills, in Dallas/Plano area, in a well established neighborhood. The area is home to numerous Bobcats. My friend and I watched two kittens play in a tree while the mother watched, close by. We observed them at a close range of about thirty feet. Dangerous, to be sure. I now reside in Juneau Alaska; another very wild habitat.There are many wolves here.Many bears close by.It is a personal choice to live here and I am fortunate. I am also respectful and never interact with animals of the wild.

Now there is a smart person. Too many times it's "Death by Stupid" at our national parks, although these two attacks don't fit in that category. I read a book called "Deaths At Yellowstone" that should really be called "Stupid Deaths at Yellowstone."

The article fails to mention how these individuals came to be attacked. In other words, with bites to the hands, was the woman feeding or attempting to feed the bobcat? I've seen bobcats in my area. They're no larger than a cocker spaniel and not aggressive.

Wow, after Rangers and Fish & Game Officers found several resort employees feeding wildlife (probably including Bobcats), it would seem mgt. would step in and remind their staff that it's not right to invite wildlife in, that their life is in danger, and guests too! Remind everyone that feeding wildlife is just inviting serious problems!

This posting should be titled "When French Fry Crazed Bobcats Strike!"

A reminder to all that people are NEVER going to stop feeding wildlife, no matter how many signs, interpretive concepts, brochures, warning videos, etc. you put. Maybe I am too cynical, but in all reality, people want that connection to wildlife. The Parks will always have visitors who do what they want, despite common sense and conditioning against their behaviors that have negative impacts.

Besides not commenting on what the woman was doing before her hands got scratched, the article failed to mention the resort employee's treatment of one cat. We were in Furnace Creek during one of the sitings that week. We witnessed twelve male employees surrounding a tree where a bobcat was and going three feet or so up to it with mace and spraying it. The cat eventually made it to a grove surrounding the resort and didn't move much for 4 hours, suggesting the mace had significantly harmed the cat. The attack one or two days later on the employee who was reported to be smoking did not mention another witness' account that that the smoker had had a soda beverage in his hand. The cat might interpreted the soda as mace and attacked the smoker in an attempt to preemptively protect itself from injury.

We were present at the attack, witnessed it, and can report that this woman was not feeding any bobcat nor did she have any food. My wife and I had been swimming at around dusk. As we got out of the water a nice couple from California asked us to join them at the fireplace where they had a roaring fire going. We pulled up chairs and the four of us were facing the fire, talking, not eating or drinking, no food or drink present.

At this point the gentleman looks over my wife's shoulder, and says "Looks like a kitty". My wife turns to face a bobcat in the act of jumping onto her shoulder and neck from behind. As she turns the bobcat retreats, runs out of the pool area, and around the back of the fireplace. Realizing what happened, I happened to have a small flashlight, and the gentleman and I walked over to where the pool ends and desert begins, in the area behind the fireplace. I shined the light and saw nothing.

Then, to a chorus of screaming, we ran back to the fireplace to see the bobcat on the back of his wife's neck. She screamed, chased it away, and I grabbed a chair to keep it away from the four of us. We examined her wounds, saw they were open and bleeding, and I ran over to the wall phone to call for help.

No one came down to the pool. I shined the light out into the desert and the bobcat was about 15 feet out looking toward the pool. We retreated up to the inn, me bringing up the rear with my chair shield.

About 10 minutes later or so the rangers arrived and transported the lady to the hospital in Pahrump for the start of rabies shots.

We later learned that someone on the inn kitchen staff had been feeding bobcats, returned to Europe after her job was up, leaving behind a few hungry, habituated bobcats.

Overall comment....this was scary. We are regular DV hikers, have been to many remote locations including Alaska with Grissly habitat, but have not ever experienced the complete lack of fear on the part of a predator. If there is a lesson to be learned, beyond of course never ever ever feed wildlife, it is that DV is theirs, not ours and be always cognizant of that. In retrospect I do not believe that we did anything at all wrong. This was a case of an animal that got the wrong idea about humans.

Always carry a hand gun in the wilderness or areas with potential threat from wild life. I favor a .357 or .44 magnum revolver.