FWC Position on Nuisance Bobcats
This was the FWC's response to the outcry against the Florida bobcat being killed by Critter Control
We sincerely appreciate and share your concerns for Florida's wildlife, particularly in the recent incident in which a bobcat was euthanized after it was captured by a nuisance wildlife trapper in an Orlando community.
Nobody likes to see an animal killed like this, whether the reason makes sense biologically or for public safety, or not. In fact, allowing nuisance animals to be euthanized is something we would rather not do, and we consider that to be a last resort. This particular incident is very sad and unfortunate, but as is often the case, it may have resulted from inappropriate behavior by people.
The staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is dedicated to wildlife conservation, which means protecting and managing wildlife species. So allowing an animal like this bobcat to be euthanized may seem counter to our agency's mission. But, as unfortunate as it is, this bobcat was an example of an animal for which there was no good alternative other than euthanasia.
Many people have called our agency to ask why this bobcat couldn't be taken to a zoo or other type of captive wildlife facility. The reason is that it's difficult or impossible for many animals taken from the wild to adapt to living in a captive situation. As a result, most captive wildlife facilities are hesitant to take them because the animals become stressed, are subject to illness, fight with other animals and introduce disease into the facility.
People also asked why it couldn't be relocated to the wild. There are many reasons for this, which are explained below, but the bottom line is that this animal had become too accustomed to being around people and no longer had much fear of them.
How this unnatural behavior happened is unknown, but the fact remains that it did. The bobcat was no longer acting like a wild bobcat. People in the community may have allowed it to eat pet food, or may even have set out food specifically for the bobcat. Or maybe nobody did anything to discourage it from hanging around. Maybe at first it was a novelty to see a bobcat up close, perhaps a good photo opportunity. So people tiptoed around the bobcat, and nobody tried to scare it away.
Or maybe the bobcat was sick; sick animals often exhibit unnatural behaviors and sometimes may lose their fear of people.
A wild animal that loses its fear and becomes comfortable around people, for whatever reason, is not a wild animal you want in your neighborhood. An animal like this becomes unpredictable and could easily injure someone. If it is sick and attacks someone the problems are even worse.
Moving an animal such as this bobcat provides an opportunity for it to become the same problem animal in a different neighborhood, or perhaps it could even spread disease to other wild animals in a new area.
Studies have shown that many relocated wild animals often try to return home – no matter how far away home is. Along the way an animal like this bobcat may find another neighborhood whose residents offer the same amenities – generally easy meals and few threats to its safety. The nuisance problems then start all over again in a new community.
Relocated animals cross unfamiliar roads and often get hit and injured or killed by vehicles. And, they end up in another bobcat's established territory, alone and unfamiliar with the lay of the land. They often fall victim to fights that are frequently won by the resident animal.
The best solution to wild animals becoming nuisance animals is people – you and me – making sure that our actions don't cause wild animals to change their behaviors. The key is in knowing how to live with them. Even in a state with seemingly runaway development, we can and often do co-exist with many wild animals. If people do the right things, then harm usually won't come to either us or the animals.
If this is to work, it may require some people to modify their own behavior. How much you have to modify often depends upon where you live or how recently your neighborhood was built. It is often a real benefit to live right next to wetlands or woods, but if you do, you probably have lots of wildlife neighbors, some of which are looking for easy meals.
One of the surest ways to make a wild animal lose its fear of people and become a nuisance is to leave your pet's food outside. For that matter, leaving any kind of food outside can attract wild critters. If we leave our garbage in an unsecured trash can, it can become a buffet for raccoons, bears, opossums and other wild animals. The seemingly innocuous birdfeeders can sometimes attract much more than birds. Even compost piles are heavenly to some wildlife. Unfortunately, in the end, all of these foods that humans provide unwittingly to wild critters can lead to the death of those wild critters who are so tempted by them.
We are all affected when the wild animals become used to people, then are branded nuisances and are sentenced to death. Nobody likes that, but often people can make small changes in their actions and prevent it from happening.
I hope this helps you understand some of the issues we face when humans and wildlife interact in these situations, as well as some of the solutions.
You may also find the enclosed document useful. It explains some of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's nuisance wildlife rules and provides a little more information about why it's rarely a good idea to relocate wildlife.
Again, thank you for your heartfelt concern, and please know that we share many of your concerns.
FWC Citizen Services
For the cats,
Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457
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