DRAGOON — After several weeks, the Ray family who endured the attack of a presumably rabid bobcat on Mount Graham shared their experience.
“We heard that horrific scream,” said Jared Ray, describing the sound of his 4-year-old daughter’s wail as she was attacked by the bobcat. “That scream that sends a chill down your spine.”
Meeting at the Texas Canyon Rest Stop on I-10 on Friday morning, the Ray family told the story of the attack and the subsequent recoveries. Jared answered the majority of the questions posed by local and Tucson media, with his wife, Heather, occasionally chiming in and the children watching the interview quietly.
The family had been camping for several days in the Shannon Campground on Mount Graham with two other branches of the family during an annual reunion. According to Jared, the three younger children, including 4-year-old Dannika, had walked behind the tent while the family finished up dinner on the night of the attack.
Heather was the first to the scene after she heard the screaming and found that Dannika was being attacked by the bobcat. Heather wrestled the animal off her daughter and threw it.
Although it would seem any other animal would limp away after being thrown by an adult human, the bobcat instead charged into the main area of the camp and began to attack the adults. According to Heather, the bobcat looked normal, and she was surprised by the onslaught.
Dannika sustained a bite to her lower back, a bite to her left arm and a bite to the head. Brielle, 15, sustained a bite to her right thigh, and Jared had scratches on his hands.
“We definitely learned a lot. I think we’re stronger now as a family; we got to see a little bit of what we can do when something unexpected happens. We talked about how we could possibly be better prepared in the future when we go camping,” Jared said.
“We are proud of our kids; we really are,” Heather said.
“When I first threw it, I thought that would be the end of it. I just figured she was little and that’s why it did that and it would run away, so that’s why we weren’t expecting it to keep attacking,” she continued. “I was thinking, ‘I didn’t know an animal would do this.’ ”
The bobcat was repeatedly thrown away from the victims by family members for the next two minutes as people screamed. Eventually, the older teens gathered up the younger children and moved to safety in the back of one of the family’s trucks, and the bobcat circled the vehicle repeatedly, trying to get up and attack the victims again before eventually wandering away.
According to Jared, the encounter only lasted roughly two minutes, but everything felt as if it was going in slow motion.
After the attack, the entire family had to receive rabies vaccinations and has had to go to three different emergency rooms. There has been a GoFundMe webpage created by the family, called “Victims of Arizona Bobcat Attack,” to help cover any medical expenses.
“I think this will forever be with us, but it’s not going to deter us from camping again,” Jared said.
Arizona Game and Fish Investigation
“Our investigation found that this was an unprovoked attack,” said Arizona Game and Fish Public Information Officer Mark Hart.
According to Hart, the Game and Fish department set four traps at various locations on the mountain for the bobcat and even added distress calls in the hopes to lure the bobcat to the traps. The traps have been unsuccessful to this point, and a Game and Fish veterinarian has decided the bobcat probably died of its infection and has called off the hunt.
“Rabies are most commonly transmitted by foxes, bats and skunks. Occasionally, we will have one of those species make contact with another wildlife species, and the two that come to mind, where we’ve had them, are javelina and bobcat. This was an unusual event, to be sure, because bobcats are not normally dangerous to people and are not considered a common carrier of rabies, so it probably had contact with a rabid bat skunk or fox at some point,” Hart said.
When asked if the bobcat could infect another predator while in its violent rabid state, Hart said it was possible but not probable.
“In recent history, we have not seen a rabies case in a bear or a mountain lion, which, of course, would be an even more dangerous situation if it happens. We’ve had two in southeastern Arizona since 2010, two rabid javelina and another case of a rabid bobcat that bit someone in Oro Valley in 2009; that’s the last case of attack by a bobcat that was tested for rabies,” Hart said. “The extreme aggression occurs in the later stages.”
Hart said in the event of any animal emergency, Arizona Fish and Game should be contacted by phone at 623-236-7021.