Death Valley's Bobcats Likely Lured In By Poor Food Handling at Inn
In the first incident, on December 17th, a 64-year-old woman suffered scratches and bites on her hands, face, and scalp. Terry Baldino, the park's public information officer, says the woman and three others had been swimming in the inn's pool shortly before the attack.
"They had gotten out and were just chatting. They saw the cat, thought it was a domestic cat, and called it over," Ranger Baldino said today.
Just when they realized the bobcat was not a domestic cat it jumped on the woman, he added.
While the four told rangers they didn't have food, others who talked to rangers said the four did have food and were trying to entice the bobcat with it, said Ranger Baldino.
In the second incident, on December 21st, a male employee of the inn had reportedly been smoking outside the building when the bobcat attacked him, inflicting bites and lacerations to his head and neck.
Ranger Baldino confirmed that prior to that attack a group of men had treed a bobcat and sprayed it with mace in a bid to convince it to avoid humans. Whether that animal was involved in either attack is unknown, he added.
The ranger did say investigations of the two incidents provided "good evidence" that the bobcats were lured to the inn either by poor handling of trash "or even employees feeding the wildlife."
It's not known how many bobcats call Death Valley home, and park officials aren't exactly sure why they've been so visible of late.
“This year there have been more sightings of bobcats than in many, many years," said Ranger Baldino.
One theory is that the heavy rains of 2004 and 2005 produced lush vegetation that led to a boom in the rabbit and small game population, and that in turn led to a boom in the area's bobcat numbers.
“Now there’s perhaps an overabundance of bobcats and in their search for finding food they’re stumbling into areas where people out,” said the ranger.
In light of the attacks, rangers are making even more efforts to convince visitors and park workers not to feed wildlife.