A woman in central Vermont said she had a run-in with wildlife Thursday morning that left her shaken up, but otherwise OK. Her beloved pet almost became another animal’s breakfast, the Barre resident said.
"The cat came around the corner and just latched onto him," Christina LaRock recalled, describing what she called an attack by a bobcat targeting her chihuahua, Tiny.
LaRock said the bobcat bit Tiny during their morning walk, luckily not making it past her rescue pet’s thick harness.
"He kind of tore right through the fabric with his teeth," LaRock said, showing NECN & NBC10 Boston the punctured harness.
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Christina is now urging her neighbors to stay alert, since she reported this happened in a pretty busy part of the city, close to Spaulding High School.
LaRock told NECN & NBC10 Boston she yanked Tiny back using his leash, then fought off the attacker with a firm smack.
"I just gave him a good old left hand upside the head and I think it stunned him enough that he took off," LaRock said of the bobcat. "Don’t mess with my little baby Tiny!"
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The pet owner said she was grateful she took Tiny for this particular walk herself, as opposed to her young son — who often does so.
LaRock posted about the incident in a Facebook forum about community safety issues, and made a report to the Barre City Police Department. The police forwarded the report to the Vermont Department of Fish & Wildlife, LaRock said, and she spoke with a game warden about what happened.
"All indications are the cat viewed the dog as prey," game warden Paul Brown of Vermont Fish & Wildlife explained in an interview Thursday with NECN & NBC10 Boston.
Brown called cases like this very rare, but reminded Vermonters wildlife is everywhere — so if there are mice, squirrels, or rabbits around, there could well be a bobcat, too.
"Whether we’re aware of their presence or not, they’re still here and live in our neighborhoods and around our houses — and with very few exceptions, pose very little threat to human health or safety," Brown said of bobcats and other wild animals.
One of those exceptions came in late 2018, when NECN & NBC10 Boston reported on a rabid bobcat that attacked several people in the Upper Valley before it was put down by a game warden.
Fish & Wildlife has educational information about bobcats posted on its website.
As for Tiny, LaRock said he appears to have escaped serious injury because the harness blocked the bobcat’s teeth. However, she was taking him to the vet, just to make sure he was okay after his ordeal.
"Just be cautious," LaRock said, reiterating her message to her neighbors. "You never know what’s going to come."
Warden Brown said there probably wasn’t anything the dog owner could’ve done differently in this situation. But for the rest of us, he said this could be a reminder of why it’s important to try to keep your distance from wildlife if you can.