Rabies alert issued after bobcat attacks

Courtesy Karen Morse

- A rabies alert has been issued for Venice and North Port by the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County after the discovery of at least one rabid bobcat.

The Florida Department of Health says two bobcat attacks occurred within four miles of one another in east Venice -- specifically between Venice Avenue and U.S. 41, approximately two miles west of River Road.

Officials captured one cat after it ran into the home of Karen Morse.

"To be honest with you I didn't know it was a bobcat. I just thought it was a really really big domestic cat," Morse told FOX 13 News about the incident. 

Morse said her grandson heard her dog yelping outside. When she went to check on the dog, the cat came flying into her house.

"He ran into my house and climbed up my dining room upholstered chair, came down, went through the living room," Morse said.

Her son trapped the cat in the back sunroom.

Video shows what happened after wildlife officers showed up. One trying to capture the bobcat when, in a terrifying moment, the cat leaps onto the wildlife officer. The officer was able to bat the bobcat away and eventually capture it. 

Bobcats are normally elusive and nonaggressive, but this one was quite the opposite.

"It was very unnerving to have him jump up there it was almost like he was almost to his chin if not to his face. He bled," Morse said. "The thought of the bobcat having rabies never crossed Karen or her family's minds, it wasn't until the next day when the FWC showed back up at their door that they knew something was wrong."

The cat later tested positive for the virus. Karen Morse, who lives at the home, said she has to now undergo a painful series of rabies shots. The FWC officer and another man will also undergo the treatments. 

A second cat attacked two men who were out walking.  It ran off and has not been caught, but officials have placed traps in the area.

Now, a 60-day rabies alert is in effect for Venice and North Port.

The DOH says all residents, especially those in that area, should be aware that rabies is present in the wild animal population and domestic animals are at risk if not vaccinated. The public is asked to "maintain a heightened awareness" that rabies is active in Sarasota County.

People are encouraged not to keep pet food outside, to secure garbage containers, and to keep pets under supervision.  Any suspect animal bites should be reported to DOH-Sarasota at 941-861-6133.

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