02/11/10 — Rabid bobcat found in Dudley area

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Rabid bobcat found in Dudley area

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 11, 2010 1:46 PM

DUDLEY -- A Genoa area woman feeding her horses found a bobcat in her barn, an animal that later tested positive for rabies, a state official confirmed Wednesday.

The animal was killed by the property owner because it posed an immediate threat to Frances Figgins and her husband, Ronnie Figgins, authorities said.

On Wednesday, Dr. James Kittrell, a veterinarian with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, confirmed that the animal had tested positive for rabies.

"The bottom line is, they found a bobcat in their horse barn, and it was acting strangely, so they killed it ... and submitted it to the state lab to check for rabies and it was, in fact, rabid," Kittrell said.

Mrs. Figgins told her husband that she was going out to feed the horses at their Emmaus Church Road home, about 6 a.m. on Feb. 5, Ronnie Figgins said.

When she entered the stall, the bobcat walked by her, acting strangely and howling as if injured, Figgins said.

"It was staggering, and it was hollering, like he was in a lot of pain," Figgins said.

Hearing the frantic calls of his wife, Figgins responded with shotgun in hand to the horse barn where the couple's three horses are kept, he said.

"The bobcat went right by her," Figgins said. "I called the Sheriff's Department and they told me to go ahead and kill him."

Figgins said he didn't want to damage a wheelbarrow the bobcat was hiding behind, so he returned to the house to get a smaller weapon, a .30-30-caliber rifle.

The Dudley area resident said he is not sure exactly how the bobcat got into his horse barn.

"He had to crawl over the fence, and he had to crawl over the stall to get in there," Figgins said.

Animal Control Director Vicki Falconer said a rabid bobcat is a rarity.

"We have never tested a bobcat before," said Falconer. She said she had to ask the state lab for permission to send the bobcat for testing.

In the meantime, the brush with the rabid bobcat has forced Figgins to re-administer a rabies vaccination, because the state veterinarian told Figgins it was required.

None of the horses seemed to have been hurt, he said. The state veterinarian also asked Figgins to keep the horses on their property for at least 45 days.

The animal control director said Animal Control can be reached at 731-1439, or by calling 911.