Just before the bobcat attacked, the quiet subdivision where Happy and Kristi Wade live in Burgaw, North Carolina, was the very picture of suburban tranquility.
Happy Wade was carrying a pan of brownies, and Kristi Wade was carrying their cat, Caroline Faith, in a carrier. It was a Friday morning, and they were on their way to a veterinarian in Wilmington, about 25 miles away, for a routine appointment.
“Good morning,” Happy Wade said cheerfully to a passing jogger before remarking, “I need to wash my car.”
That’s when Kristi Wade said she heard an angry growl. She thought it was just a neighborhood cat. But it was a rabid bobcat crawling out from under a car in the driveway.
“I won’t soon forget the look in that cat’s eyes,” she said in an interview. “It had its sights set on me, and that’s when I ran.”
“Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” she screamed, as the bobcat sank its teeth into her left hand and then crawled up her back, and onto her shoulder.
The attack was captured by the Wades’ home-security camera in a video that ricocheted across the internet after Happy Wade shared it with his boss, who shared it with someone else, whose nephew put it on TikTok, Kristi Wade said.
The 46-second clip has put a spotlight on Happy Wade’s split-second reaction to his wife’s screams.
Happy Wade ran to his wife, pulled the bobcat off her back and held the animal aloft with his bare hands, as it writhed and growled.
“Oh, my God, it’s a bobcat!” he screamed.
Then he hurled the animal across the lawn.
“Get out! Get out! Get out!” Happy Wade, who has a concealed-carry permit, shouted before pulling out a pistol. But the bobcat darted back under the car. Using an expletive, Happy Wade shouted that he would “shoot” the animal and warned the jogger to stay away.
“Watch out!” he said. “It’s a bobcat that attacked my wife.”
After the clip ends, Happy Wade shot the bobcat, as did a sheriff’s deputy who had responded to a 911 call, Kristi Wade said.
The Pender County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a bobcat was killed on April 9 in the Creekside subdivision in Burgaw. Testing at the North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health confirmed that the animal was rabid, the sheriff’s office said.
Kristi Wade said her husband was not happy to have shot the bobcat. The couple has two cats and a dog and serve on the board of a local humane society, Kristi Wade said.
“We’re animal lovers and it was very difficult for my husband to do that,” she said. “It had charged back out. He knew he had no other choice.”
Later, Kristi Wade said that she and Happy Wade learned that the bobcat had attacked another neighbor about 10 minutes earlier.
Kristi Wade said she and Happy Wade went to the emergency room after the attack. She had bite marks on her hand, scratches on her arm, claw marks on her back and other wounds, she said. Her husband had bite marks on his hand and deep scratches. Both were given antibiotics and the rabies vaccine, she said.
Ted Stankowich, a behavioral ecologist who specializes in mammals at California State University, Long Beach, said he was “really shocked” by the video.
Bobcats, which live in most parts of the United States, typically avoid humans and prey on rodents, rabbits and reptiles, he said.
“Any rabid animal is going to be far more aggressive around humans,” Stankowich said. “But a normal bobcat would typically not come into a neighborhood like that, into suburbia, let alone attack a person like that.”
Kristi Wade said her injuries could have been far worse if her husband had not intervened.
“He saved my life,” she said. “If he had not been there, I do not know where I’d be, or in what shape I’d have been in. I do not know how I would have fended it off myself.”
Kristi Wade added that she was “not the least bit surprised” that Happy Wade had put himself in harm’s way that morning.
“That’s just the kind of person he is,” she said. “We’ve been married for 30 years. I met him when I was 15, and there was never a doubt in my life how much he loves me and how much he would do for me.”