TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Ray family takes an annual camping trip together and their most recent outdoor getaway is one they’ll always remember for a situation they wish never happened.
Jared Ray and his immediate family met with reporters Friday. It was their first time sharing the details of a bobcat attack near Mount Graham that sent several loved ones to the hospital last month.
“It was crazy to go from thinking about setting up s’mores for all the kids, you know, around the campfire, in the blink of an eye, fighting for your daughter’s safety and for the safety of everyone else around you,” said Ray.
His 4-year-old daughter Dannika had walked towards the tents with some other young relatives. Ray said he’s learned from years of parenting to discern different noises children make, and the scream Dannika let out signaled an emergency.
“That was the scream that sends the chill down your spine,” he said.
Dannika mother Heather grabbed the big cat by the back of its neck and tossed it away. But it kept coming back.
One of Dannika's sisters hit it with a rock. One of her brothers eventually threw it far enough away that everyone could safely jump into the vehicles around camp.
The Ray’s estimate it barely lasted two minutes, but it felt much longer because the frantic situation seemed to happen in slow motion. Five people were scratched or bitten in some way, but all 15 members of the family had to be treated for rabies.
Arizona Game and Fish Department set traps and used predator calls in hopes of catching the wild animal. Teams took down the traps after 11 days with no luck, presuming the bobcat has since died of rabies.
Ray said he’s proud of how the family handled itself in such a tight spot.
They consider it a good lesson for everyone to keep the littlest ones in your camp close and to always be aware of your surroundings.
They’ll keep that in mind the next time they plan a trip, because the Ray family will be camping again soon.