SUNAPEE – An 80-year-old Georges Mills woman is recovering at home after being jumped by a bobcat in an attack that required 50 to 60 stitches to her face, back and arm at New London Hospital, according to her son.
Elsie Dabrowski went out to her chicken coop Sunday night as she does every night around dusk, closed up the coop and bent down to cut weeds with a sickle, said her son, Gene Dabrowski.
The animal lunged at Elsie, bit her left cheek, scratched her throat and bit her back.
“I kept thinking why? Why is it attacking me? It attacked me for no reason. I thought, ‘Why, why,’” said Elsie, a former Marine, on Monday evening.
Elsie beat the cat off her with the sickle, and Gene’s five dogs chased it under a nearby porch. He lives only 300 feet away in a separate house, heard the commotion, rushed to the scene and killed the animal with two blasts of a shotgun.
On Monday afternoon, state health officials informed the Dabrowskis that the bobcat was rabid, Gene said.
Elsie, her son, his wife and their three children must undergo a series of rabies shots. Their five dogs, which were already vaccinated, will receive booster shots and be quarantined for six months in a house and fenced-in yard, Gene said.
An experienced trapper and outdoorsman, Dabrowski called a Fish and Game conservation officer to retrieve the dead animal.
“It had a face full of porcupine quills,” he said. “Usually, in cases like raccoons with porcupine quills, it’s a rabid animal, because their natural instinct is to stay away from porcupines as a food source.”
He said the bobcat got into a fight with a neighborhood dog about 45 minutes before it attacked his mother.
The bobcat population has been steadily increasing in New Hampshire since 1989, when the state put an end to bobcat hunting. Fish and Game last year tried to introduce a limited hunting and trapping season with 50 permits to be issued via a lottery, but the proposal was withdrawn amid public outcry.
Paul Debow, president of the New Hampshire Trappers Association, said the incident will trigger renewed calls by his organization for a limited bobcat hunt.
“Absolutely,” he said. “We’re starting on it today.”
Fish and Game is receiving an increasing number of calls about “nuisance” bobcats, said Patrick Tate, a wildlife biologist with Fish and Game. There hasn’t been a confirmed case of a rabid bobcat since 2013, when two were identified – one in an encounter with a hunter, the other with a pet dog, he said.
“What we are seeing now is a population getting close to the biological carrying capacity and these truly nuisance situations increase and the presence of disease increases,” Tate said.
Union Leader reporter Mark Hayward contributed to this article.