Originally created 02/14/98

Two treated for rabies after attack by bobcat



ATLANTA -- Two men in the south Georgia town of Ty Ty are being treated for rabies after a rare bobcat attack on a farm owned by one of the men.

A rabid bobcat jumped out from under a building on Oren Burdett's farm Monday afternoon, biting Ossie Chaney on his right leg.

Mr. Chaney hit the bobcat with a shovel, and the animal ran into a shed, said Mr. Burdett's wife, Betty Burdett.

Mr. Burdett heard Mr. Chaney yell and ran to see what was wrong.

"The next thing he knew, that thing was wrapped around his leg a-scratchin' and a-bitin'," Mrs. Burdett said.

Mr. Burdett suffered scratches and gouges on his leg, she said.

"When it finally turned him loose, it run back into the barnyard where Mr. Chaney was, and Mr. Chaney had picked up a two-by-four, and he finally hit him in the head and killed him," Mrs. Burdett said.

Nick Nicholson, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, said although bobcats are common in the state, people usually do not even see them because they are nocturnal and solitary animals.

"Bobcat attacks on people are extremely rare, ... except in a case where they might be sick," Mr. Nicholson said. "Certainly once they've identified someone as a human, then their typical response would be to leave."

The bobcat, which later tested positive for rabies, probably attacked because it had the disease, said Larry Branch, a veterinarian in Tift County, where the attack occurred, about 40 miles east of Albany.

"When their brain is infected with rabies, they tend to be more aggressive," Mr. Branch said. "They're just not thinking very clearly."

Rabies is common in Georgia but usually occurs in less dangerous animals, such as raccoons, foxes and skunks, Mr. Branch said.

Bobcats, with their sharp claws and teeth, are particularly threatening with rabies.

"Their way of staying alive is to attack and kill," Mr. Branch said.

Bobcats do not often contract the disease because they are not social animals, Mr. Nicholson said.

Both Mr. Chaney and Mr. Burdett immediately started getting shots for the potentially fatal disease and will need to continue the series of five injections for the next three Sundays, Mrs. Burdett said.

Three of the couple's barn cats had to be killed in case they were infected, she said.

Mrs. Burdett said her husband never had time to be scared when the bobcat was attacking.

"It just happened so quick, he said he just thought it was a dream, but he knew it was real because it hurt too bad," she said.

Bobcat facts

A look at bobcats:The wild cats stand about 15 inches tall at the shoulders.They are named for their short tails, which are about 7 inches long.They weigh from 15 to 25 pounds.They have pale tan to dark reddish-brown coats with dark spots.Bobcats live in wooded areas and brushy ravines, and eat rabbits, squirrels, gophers and other small animals.They are nocturnal animals.