Bobcat Rabid; Couple On Mend

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The mature male bobcat that attacked two Payson residents in their back yard early Friday morning was rabid, said Craig McMullen, local field supervisor for Arizona Game and Fish.

"This is the first (rabies) case involving a wild animal in Gila County in some time," he said, "although there have been quite a few in Coconino County involving skunks."

McMullen, who drove the animal to the Valley for testing, got the results Friday afternoon.

The victims, Jan and Harry Parsons, owners of the Payson Golf Course, had already begun rabies treatments as a precautionary measure Friday morning.

"Because it was so aggressive, I would have been surprised if it hadn' tested positive," Jan Parsons said.

One of the Parsons' three golden retrievers also was attacked and underwent surgery Friday afternoon at Star Valley Veterinary Clinic. "Wedgie, our 1-year-old, took the brunt of the attack," Parsons said. "She was pretty much filleted open on her hind quarter and Dr. (Alan) Hallman had to put in about 30 staples, but we think she's going to be fine. She had her rabies vaccination in March."

The attack happened at 6 a.m. when the Parsons let two of their three dogs outside their West Mesa Drive home near the ninth fairway at Payson Golf Course.

"We have a fenced yard, and we heard a ruckus," Jan Parsons said. "Harry went out to try and pull the dogs away, and he hollered at me to come out and help. I ran out in my nightshirt and collared the dogs and then opened the gate so the bobcat would have a way out.

"The animal retreated under the porch, and as I tried to get back into the house it started growling and attacked me. I got bit on the arm, and then he attacked Harry. He got scratched on the face pretty good."

In retrospect, she said, she would have handled the situation differently.

"When the animal was on me and biting me, I cuffed it around the neck and threw it down on the ground," she said. "Now what was I going to do with it? I should have tried to throw it in the dumpster or something."

The fact that the bobcat had rabies is cause for concern, but not panic, McMullen said.

"It certainly creates a heightened sense of awareness," he said. People should stay clear of any animals displaying a lack of fear or unusually aggressive behavior.

"If bitten by a wild animal, people should seek immediate medical attention like the Parsons did," McMullen said. Wild animals behaving suspiciously should be reported to the Arizona Game and Fish Department or Gila County Rabies Control.

Suspicious domestic animals should be reported to the city or county animal control offices.

The Parsons are undergoing a rabies treatment series of five shots administered over a four-week period.

Since Wedgie's rabies vaccination was current, she only has to be quarantined under the Parson's supervision for 45 days. Pets without current rabies vaccinations that are bitten by rabid animals are either destroyed or quarantined for six months away from the home at the owner's expense, said Craig Levy, program director for the Arizona Department of Health Services.

While Levy said this is the first case of rabies in Gila County in some time, a rabid bat also was discovered near Globe Friday. The three primary carriers of rabies are bats, skunks and gray foxes.

"It's just a good thing it came into our yard instead of one of our neighbors who are elderly or have small children," Parsons said.

Her advice to others who find themselves in a similar situation is to stay clear of the wild animal. "Just don't even approach it," she said.

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