Steve Verschoor had no way to know the thing was rabid. He just saw what he saw as he drove past a country club in Anthem, Ariz., on Sunday morning: a bobcat attacking a dog.
So Verschoor made a split-second decision, for better or worse.
“Attacking a wild animal with your bare hands probably isn’t a good idea,” Verschoor told KPNX-TV later. “Being an animal lover, I just went into attack mode.”
He got out of his car so fast that he left it in gear, according to witness Jason Garrido, who stopped the car from rolling away, then pulled out his phone and recorded the melee.
“Dog got into a fight with a little bobcat,” Garrido said to the camera, as the two animals grappled in the middle of the street.
Several men had gathered around them. Only Verschoor dared to bend down and intervene.
Common across the state, bobcats can grow up to four feet long and jump 12 feet in the air, according to Arizona Game and Fish. They’ve been known to attack pets, even when their minds are right. They’re not supposed to go after humans though.
If they do, the agency says, they’re likely rabid.
“Let go!” a man yelled, tugging the dog away from the bobcat, which Verschoor was still trying to restrain.
Then a loud scream.
“Somehow in that fracas there, he clung onto my hand,” Verschoor told KPNX-TV hours later, when most of his right one was covered in bandages. “Chomped me pretty good. Good enough to break the thumb.”
He said he didn’t really remember what happened next.
Garrido, who was watching and recording it, said at the time: “Oh, my God!”
Verschoor shot straight up and raised his arms. He raised the bobcat with them, hanging onto a hand by its jaws.
He spun a full circle in the street, twice. Still, it did not let go.
So Verschoor bent down and wrestled with it, finally shaking it loose. There was a chaotic moment as the bobcat circled the dog and men, as if it might attack again.
Then it shot off toward the country club — eventually to a storm drain where a sheriff’s deputy shot and killed it, according to ABC15.
When it was gone, Verschoor bent down in the street over his bloody hand. He was counting his fingers, he told KPNX-TV.
“Call 911,” someone yelled. Before the ambulance came, Verschoor looked up from his mangled hand to thank the videographer for rescuing his car.
That evening, the state wildlife department ran tests on the dead animal and reported bad news. The bobcat had rabies.
Verschoor couldn’t be reached by The Washington Post on Tuesday. He had told local reporters he was still waiting for his own test results.
The dog had been quarantined, ABC reported, but was up to date on its shots. It had escaped the encounter with only a scratch thanks to Verschoor’s intervention.
The man expressed no regrets about his actions, despite what they cost him.
He even offered sympathy for his defeated foe.
“I’m sorry it got put down,” he said. “But with wild animals, especially once they get human blood, you know — you’ve got to take action.”