FL Panther in Clermont

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http://www.wftv.com/news/13672354/detail.html

Bobcats, Possible Panther Spotted In Clermont Neighborhood

POSTED: 5:14 pm EDT July 12, 2007
UPDATED: 5:58 pm EDT July 12, 2007

CLERMONT, Fla. — A family of bobcats, and what appears to be a panther, are stirring up worries in a Clermont neighborhood. One woman told Eyewitness News she can’t get anyone to help.

The city said it wants to relocate the wild animals, but it can’t touch them until it finds a place for them to go.

One resident turned pictures over to the city on Monday, providing proof of what several other neighbors have already claimed, that in their Clermont subdivision along Jack’s Lake Road there are some dangerous animals on the loose.

When Pat D’Agnillo first spotted the bobcats and their three young in her backyard two months ago, she couldn’t help but wonder at how beautiful they were and how dangerous.

"I think it’s a danger to our subdivision. There are a lot kids out there playing and parents walking their kids and people jogging," D’Agnillo said.

She called Clermont’s Animal Control, but a supervisor said his state license mandates, unless he can find somewhere to relocate the cats, he’s not allowed to trap them and, so far, no one will take them, not any state parks and not Disney’s Animal Kingdom, for fear the cats could spread any diseases picked up in the wild.

But what has the city really concerned is the animal that appears in one of the photos D’Agnillo snapped. So far, they’ve received six reports of what looks like a Florida panther, a protected species only Florida Fish and Wildlife can touch.

The only problem is, according to the state, panthers don’t live so far north and they won’t get involved until someone can convince them otherwise.

The city’s Animal Control said, as a final resort, it can trap and euthanize the cats if they prove to pose a danger to humans, but no one in the neighborhood wants to wait for the inevitable.

"We had a bunch of rabbits and they’re gone. That’s what they were eating. So, what are they gonna eat now? I’m afraid it’s going be a child that’s out there playing or someone fishing on the lake," D’Agnillo said.

As of Monday, the city does have a plan in place. If anyone reports sighting a big cat, police will respond, just in case there is an attack. So will Animal Control, in hopes of getting some positive identification on the suspected panther.

The city of Clermont has grown rapidly over the last two years and, Animal Control said, it’s encroaching on natural habitat, forcing wildlife into residential areas. Officers said the chance of an attack increases the more they’re around humans. Children and pets are at the most risk.

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