Wed, 01 August 2007
By Greg Ruland
A rabid bobcat apparently forced its way into a West Sedona home July 25, before police officers and a state ranger were able to capture the diseased animal, the Sedona Police Department reported.
The bobcat was humanely destroyed and its head was sent to a Phoenix laboratory for testing. Within 24 hours, the test came back positive for rabies, SPD Animal Control Officer Rob Allen said.
"We really dodged a bullet," he said. No animals or people were scratched or bitten during several brazen, daylight encounters that surprised and intimidated several residents, Allen said.
The bobcat, apparently in a lethargic state, aggressively approached several people in the Kachina area,
but did not attack, before barging into the
terrified homeowner's residence, Allen said.
"The animal showed absolutely no fear," he said. "Rabid animals may show no fear of people and may even seem friendly or become aggressive."
Animal control officers from the Sedona Police Department and the Arizona Game and Fish Department used a screen door as a barricade to push and eventually trap the animal in a corner of the den, then reached over the door to secure a catch pole around the cat's neck, Allen said.
The bobcat was the seventh in a string of wild animals that tested positive for rabies in and around Sedona since January, Allen said.
In addition to the bobcat, three hydrophobic bats and three rabid foxes were discovered in several areas during the past seven months, including Soldier Pass Trail, Dry Creek Road, Oak Creek Canyon and Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.
The latest encounter prompted an urgent warning from SPD.
"Keep pets on a leash at all times and stay away from wild or unfamiliar animals," Allen said.
Allen said it was the first time in his six years with SPD he issued a warning about rabies.
The disease is 100 percent fatal if left untreated, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
"The survival rate is pretty good," if the bite is treated immediately, Allen said.
Thorough cleaning of the bite or scratch and immediate vaccination dramatically increases the chances of surviving the disease, which can take three weeks to three months to incubate, ADHS reported.
In the past, rabies vaccination was almost as scary as getting the disease itself because it required a series of very painful injections in the stomach. All that's changed now, said Allen, who underwent the treatment three times in recent years as added precaution.
As an animal control officer, Allen said he obviously has a much greater likelihood of being exposed to rabies than the average person.
"These days, it's just like getting a flu shot," he said.
According to ADHS, rabies can be acquired in only a few ways: exposure to the brain matter or spinal fluid of an infected animal, or from a bite or scratch that causes exposure to the infected animal's saliva.
Bites and scratches are the most common method of contracting the disease, ADHS reported.
According to the prevailing medical literature, 32 human rabies cases were reported between 1990 and 2000. Of those, 24 were caused by contact with bats.
Bats are a major concern when it comes to rabies and humans because bat teeth are small and bat bites have been known to go undetected, Allen said.