• Rabid bobcat killed in Clarendon
    By Darren Marcy
    Staff Writer | February 26,2014
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    Provided Photo Steven Pomerleau shot this bobcat after it attacked several cats near his Clarendon home, and displayed odd behavior. It turned out to be the right decision - the cat tested postive for rabies.
    CLARENDON — A rabid bobcat was shot and killed on Cold River Road in Clarendon on Saturday, leaving behind several injured cats and a warning for people to avoid wildlife.

    Steven Pomerleau shot and killed the bobcat out of concern for the safety of local children playing outside near his home at 607 Cold River Road. It was a decision he wasn’t happy about, but authorities said it was the right choice and likely saved other animals from attack and maybe people as well.

    Dr. Bob Johnson, the state public health veterinarian with the Department of Health, said this is only the fourth bobcat in Vermont confirmed to have rabies since 2007. The others were in Stockbridge in 2007, Northfield in 2010 and one last year in Athens.

    The most common animals to contract rabies in Vermont are foxes, raccoons, skunks and woodchucks. Rabies is also detected in bats about once a year, and other animals such as coyotes occasionally contract the disease.

    Because bobcats aren’t on the list of known vector species for rabies, Game Warden Dana Joyal of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department said he was surprised by this instance, but that Pomerleau “certainly did the right thing.”

    The female bobcat appeared as if it had been healthy, weighing 20-25 pounds, Joyal said. It may have been the same bobcat reported on the porch of a nearby house earlier in the day, he said. The animal approached a man’s car without showing any fear, Joyal said.

    That was about a half mile south of where Pomerleau shot the cat. Pomerleau’s house is about three-tenths of a mile south of the intersection of North Shrewsbury Road.

    Joyal also couldn’t be sure Pomerleau hadn’t been exposed to the cat’s saliva because he and other family members had handled the carcass, so Joyal decided the safe thing was to send the animal for testing.

    That turned out to be the right choice because Johnson confirmed Tuesday it tested positive for rabies.

    Pomerleau said the events began when he spotted a large cat with a bobbed tail as it disappeared under his porch where it attacked his cat and several neighborhood cats.

    “I thought, this is not a normal cat,” Pomerleau said. “Then I heard the thing unleash under there. It was growling. It was real nasty. It made the hair go up on the back of your neck.”

    Pomerleau said he and his 16-year-old son listened as the cat screamed, growled deeply, and even attacked ductwork to a heater vent.

    After consulting with Joyal on the phone, Pomerleau decided he would shoot the bobcat if a safe opportunity presented itself.

    Eventually Pomerleau’s cat and three others escaped. Pomerleau’s cat and at least one other were injured, but he’s not sure about two others that ran away and haven’t yet been found.

    Pomerleau said two of the cats were orange and the other was a dark-colored fluffy cat.

    That’s one thing concerning the Johnson.

    If those cats were injured, they should receive treatment from a veterinarian and anybody who has handled them should consult a doctor.

    Pomerleau and several members of his family will likely be undergoing treatment for rabies after they handled the bobcat after it was killed.

    Shooting the cat wasn’t something Pomerleau wanted to do.

    “I didn’t know if it was sick or not,” he said. “I prefer not to do it, but there are kids out there sledding. If this thing is sick … It was nerve-wracking. It’s a gorgeous animal, but I thought I made the right choice.”

    Johnson and Joyal both said he did.

    An animal suffering from rabies will exhibit changes in normal behavior.

    Sometimes that mean aggression, other times lethargy.

    Sometimes they have different vocalizations and there can be drooling.

    The key is to avoid contact with wild animals, including babies that appear to be abandoned. If there are concerns about a way a wild animal is acting, call local police who can bring in a game warden.

    Johnson said to make sure domestic animals are vaccinated and call the rabies hotline if you have any questions: 800-4-RABIES or 223-8697. Or log on to www.healthvermont.gov and find rabies information in the A-Z listings.

    darren.marcy@ rutlandherald.com
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