, Derry, New Hampshire


January 31, 2013

Column: Derry plays host to ‘When Animals Attack’


Her brother, hearing the screams, came running out of the house. Seeing his bleeding, helpless sister, Gregg used his bare hands to drive off the furious animal. With angry shrieks the cat ran into the nearby corn field. Within seconds, however, the animal changed direction and headed straight toward the Gregg house.

The animal entered the home and immediately confronted Mrs. Suzanne Gregg and chased the woman through her home. Despite her terror, the mother managed to outrun the intruder. She quickly gathered her daughters and together they fled from the house. Fearing for their lives, they sought sanctuary by locking themselves in a tool shed. All this commotion alerted the neighborhood that something was very, very wrong. Captain Daniel Danforth soon came a-running to their rescue. There in the house the local militia officer managed to corner and kill the beast.

The animal turned out to be a “wild cat of uncommon size” It was described as being very thin and “very much emaciated with hunger.” Its skin just hung over its ribs like a cloth draped over a wagon. When they opened the animal up, they found its stomach was completely empty, indicating it had gone without food for quite a while. Its weight was only about 20 pounds. It was likely a sick animal suffering from some wasting disease — likely rabies — and had been made mad by starvation.

The beast because of its size can probably be identified as a either a bobcat (Lynx rufus) or a mountain lion (Puma concolor). The latter is an animal which by then was nearly extinct in New Hampshire. They were so rare, that in 1793 a showman brought one to Portsmouth and could charge admission (4 1/2 cents adults; 2 1/4 cents children) to see the live “catamount.” The promoter claimed the mountain lion measured 8 feet from its nose to the tip of tail. It was advertised as being kept in a secure cage so “ladies and gentlemen can safely bring their children.”

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