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Nuisance bobcat chased people in neighborhood before getting shot

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Updated: 9/14/2013 12:26 am
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Neighbors in the Seaside community in Ponte Vedra called in deputies to help after a possibly rabid bobcat chased them around the neighborhood.

Robert Wilsie's camera captured the scene Friday afternoon, as armed St. Johns County deputies chased the cat into a back yard.

"This animal had been all around the neighborhood," said Wilsie.

Wilsie says it was thin, erratic and aggressive.

"The animal was a danger to the community," said Wilsie.

Deputies were unable to capture it, and decided their only option was to shoot it, but not everyone thought that was right decision.

"I was thinking it was a panther by the look of its face," said Wilsie.

Florida panthers are highly endangered, with only about 100 still in existence. Although they're native to South Florida, the FWC said there's a chance some are residing in northeast Florida. That is why the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office told Action News they called in wildlife experts to be sure, who quickly determined it was really a Florida bobcat.

A closer look at Wilsie's pictures shows the bobcat was much smaller than a typical panther, had a shorter tail, and black markings on the ears.

Wilsie said wildlife is moving closer to homes as St. Johns County develops.

"Guana Park is only about a quarter-mile from here, and so is Nocatee. With all the new homes, it doesn't surprise me that wild animals are making their way into our neighborhoods."

He hopes this is a scenario he never witnesses again, and believes, in this case, police did the right thing.

"Regardless of what it was it was a menace. Had the animal gone off we'd be telling a different story right now if it had injured someone."

The St. Johns County Sheriff's Office says deputies were confident it was bobcat before taking action. They did not call FWC officials first, which is protocol if the animal is in question. A spokesperson with the FWC says they believe police acted properly because the cat was visibly ill and a danger to people in the community.

The FWC has handed the case over to state health officials who will determine if the bobcat was rabid.
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