Woman strangles possibly rabid bobcat after it attacks her, authorities say

The Georgia woman still had the bobcat by the throat when deputies arrived.

June 15, 2018, 5:35 PM
A Bobcat prowls through the woods in this undated stock photo.
A Bobcat prowls through the woods in this undated stock photo.
STOCK/Getty Images

A Georgia woman saved her own life when she was attacked by a bobcat by overpowering the large feline and strangling it, according to local authorities.

Emergency dispatchers received a call about the incident after 6 p.m. on June 7, and when deputies got to the scene, the woman still had the bobcat by the throat and was holding it down on the ground, Hart County Sheriff Mike Cleveland told ABC News. The woman was in front of a relative's home, and several people were in the yard at the time of the attack, he said.

The woman was identified by the Hartwell Sun as 46-year-old Hartwell resident Dede Mealor Phillips.

The fully-grown bobcat had attacked the Phillips at least twice by clawing and biting her, Cleveland said. Every time she would loosen her grip a little, it would attack her again.

So, Phillips had no choice but to choke it, and another family member stabbed it with a knife for good measure, Cleveland said.

"She really didn't have a choice," Cleveland said. "She did the best she could, and she did."

Phillips was taken to the hospital, where she was treated for injuries to her hands and arms, Cleveland said. Her daughter-in-law, Heather Mealor, wrote on Facebook later that night that she was headed home but was in pain and didn't have much use of her hands.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources took the bobcat's body to be examined, Cleveland said, adding that he's sure it had rabies because bobcats are typically nighttime hunters and stay away from humans.

"When you see one that's in the daytime, that's not afraid people, then something's really wrong with it," he said.

The bobcat was about 3 feet long, but it was skinnier than usual, which is likely due to the rabies, Cleveland said.

While the bobcat population in the area isn't sizable, Cleveland said there have been several incidents of rabid animals in the past four weeks. About 12 miles away from where the woman was attacked, a bobcat had walked into a building in the middle of the day had tested positive for rabies, as well as two skunks, one of which attacked someone, Cleveland said.

"There's an unusual amount of rabies going on right now," he said.

Phillips had just placed a new bumper sticker on her truck and went to take a picture when the bobcat attacked, the Hartwell Sun reported. After she approached her truck, she zoomed in with the camera to where a neighbor's dog was barking, and the bobcat appeared.

The bobcat then leaped toward her face, Cleveland said. The force of the animal knocked her back, but not to the ground, according to the newspaper.

"Thank God I'm not a little woman," Phillips told the Sun. "Thank God it wasn't my daughter-in-law or my granddaughter."

Phillips said she didn't even scream until the bobcat stopped moving, determined that it wouldn't get a hold of her granddaughter. She said she could tell that it was out to kill her.

"It wanted me dead," she said.

Phillips tested positive for rabies and has been receiving a series of rabies shots, according to the Sun. She has also been seeing an orthopedic surgeon in Gainesville, Florida, for her inuries.

Cleveland said it was "remarkable" that Phillips was able to keep the bobcat at bay. The sheriff's office found the incident "hard to believe" when they found out, he said.

"She was a brave person," Cleveland said.