Rabid Bobcat

State Deer Project Leader Bill Woytek had an interesting take on the rabid bobcat that went on a rampage through the Greenfield Meadows last month on a sultry Saturday afternoon before being killed by law-enforcement officials.

“I guess it has something to say about the many mountain lion sightings reported over the years,” he said.

Indeed.

Woytek was referring to the fact that the original scanner reports called for police intervention in The Meadows, where a “mountain lion was attacking people in their yards.” Word spread fast, and law enforcement officials and emergency-response teams  rushed to The Meadows to assist. Luckily, the 22-pound female bobcat didn’t visit the on-site auction at the old Holland Farm or the music festival at Greenfield Community College, both of which were going on in the neighborhood at the time of the attacks.

My wife and I were on our way to preview the auction when a Greenfield police cruiser at the tip of my yard barked something at us over its loudspeaker. I looked at my speedometer, checked my lights and wondered, “What the hell did I do?” before my curiosity was piqued by an ambulance a short distance down the road. The way the ambulance workers were scurrying around, we knew something serious had happened.

When we returned home, a breathless Denny Dasatti was concluding a message on my telephone answering machine. All I heard was, “So get your pad and paper. Sounds like a good story in your back yard.”

Hmmmmm?

I played the entire message and Dasatti, my hunting buddy, said he was in a hurry but had just heard a call for police to The Meadows, where a “mountain lion” was attacking people in their yards. “Sounds like it’s right there in your neighborhood.”

“Get your pistol,” ordered my wife, as my mother entered the house for an unannounced visit.

“What’s going on?” my mother asked. “There are police cars and ambulances everywhere.”

I went to my gun safe, loaded my .38 revolver, strapped it to my sideand took a ride. A short distance down the road, at the outflow of Meadow Lane, I spotted an ambulance parked in the street, its attendant escorting a bandaged neighbor down the driveway.

“Stay in your car,” the ambulance attendant barked. “It’s not safe around here. There’s a wildcat attacking people.”

“Yeah!” added the octogenarian victim pointing to the bandage above his knee. “It bit me in my backyard.”

“How long was its tail?” I asked my bitten neighbor, and he spread his hands about eight inches, which is when I knew we weren’t dealing with a mountain lion. Having written several stories about mountain lion sightings over the past 20-some-odd years, I knew the distinguishing feature on a mountain lion is a long, bowed tail sloping downward toward to ground and back up.

Headed east, I drove to the end of Meadow Lane, where a Greenfield police officer and his dog were stationed, fielding furious chatter on the walkie-talkie. This was serious stuff, and the rumors were flying.

“You better hope the cat doesn’t like music,” I told the officer, “because it could wreak havoc at the balloon fest.”

He rolled his eyes. No joke.

“What are the eye witnesses saying about the tail?” I asked the officer, who spread his hands about eight inches and said, “They’re saying it’s about this long.”

“It’s a bobcat,” I told him. “I have seen many out here, some as big as my Springer Spaniel. I see them most often at night, on my way home from work, trying to get the waterfowl spending the night in the cornfield puddles at the crotch of Plain and Colrain roads. But I’ve also seen them in the woods, on deer stands. Seem to be quite a few out here.”

“Yeah, we figure it’s a bobcat, too,” the officer admitted. “But we’ve got to get it before it causes more problems.”

Satisfied that we weren’t dealing with a killer cat, I hopped in my car and returned home. My wife and mother were sitting at the kitchen table, talking.

“I went out in the yard,” my wife said, “and a Greenfield cop stopped his cruiser and asked me to stay in the house. Said it wasn’t safe to be in the yard, a vicious wildcat was attacking people.”

“He ain’t lyin’,” I told here. “It’s a bobcat, and it’s already attacked a baby in a swing set and at least two other people in the neighborhood.”

A short while later I left for South Hadley to run an errand and three game-warden vehicles, two state police cars and an ambulance passed me. You would have thought The Meadows was under terrorist attack. A wild scene. Justifiably so, I guess.

A red light greeted me at the Route 2/Colrain Road intersection and I came to a stop. While sitting there waiting for the light to change, a dreadful thought came to me. Suppose that crazed cat bit a black bear on its way to The Meadows. Think of the damage a 200-pound, rabid bear could do to a residential neighborhood. Not a comforting thought.

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