NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Sarasota County health officials issue a rabies alert for Venice and North Port. There were two attacks between December and December 30. Three people were scratched and a dog was bitten. One bobcat was rabies positive.
“He fights, fights, fights. Then he eventually jumps on the guy, scratches his arm his shirt is torn in shreds,” says Karen Morse, North Port resident.
Karen and her 13-year-old grandson Robert and his dog Sammy were waiting for her at the front door Thursday morning while she got her shoes so they could go for a walk.
Karen says, “All of a sudden I heard a terrible awful noise. I came running out. The bobcat was right here on the dog. I screamed at my grandson, 'Pick Sammy up, pick Sammy up.' ”
The bobcat had grabbed Sammy by the neck and left 5 puncture wounds also scratching the teenager in the leg.
Karen says the bobcat walked into the home, right past her and jumped on the dining room chair.
Karen says, “He lumbered through the living room coming out here. My son bursts out of the bedroom opens the lanai door, bobcat goes out. … He jumped on the glass see him wandering around.”
Karen's son Robert captured video of the wildlife officer trying to catch the bobcat.
What was she thinking as all this was happening in your home?
“Well, it all happened so fast. At first I did not know it was a bobcat. You’re pretty much shell-shocked,” she says.
Karen called the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and after putting up a fight the officer caught the bobcat.
Karen says, “The cat was aggressive. For him to come in that front door, attack that dog, through the living room and into the lanai ... very aggressive.”
But Sarasota health officials warn a rabid animal doesn’t always act aggressive. “Even though with rabies infection most of the time be aggressive they can also appear tame. That might fool people to think they can go up and engage a wild animal. Don’t do that. Get away from it,” says Tom Higginbotham, environmental health director for the Florida Department of Health of Sarasota County.
Karen and her son’s family -- all 6 -- are getting shots for rabies as a precaution.
Karen says, “The next day I find out it’s rabid.”
Karen bought her house because it backs into a nature preserve.
How does she feel about being this close to nature now?
She says, “A little nervous, a little nervous. I thought about buying a small dog … rethinking that now.”
There is a rabies alert for North Port and Venice for the next 60 days.
The Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County found rabies in a bobcat and two bobcat attacks occurred within four miles of each case in east Venice between Venice Ave and U.S. 41.
Officials say residents should be aware that wild animals may have rabies and to make sure your animals are vaccinated.
If your pet is bitten by a wild animal, seek veterinary assistance for the animal immediately and contact the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office Animal Services Section at 941-861-9500. If you see or are approached by what appears to be an aggressive or ill animal, officials advise you to maintain a safe distance and contact law enforcement immediately by dialing 911 or the sheriff's office non-emergency line at 941-316-1201.