VENICE, Fla. (WWSB) - The shocking videos of bobcats and Florida panthers struggling to walk properly and dragging their back legs have grabbed the attention of state wildlife officials.
This week, a bobcat in Venice was spotted doing the same thing. Local and state officials are working together to figure out exactly what’s happening to these animals, but it’s interesting to note all these stumbling bobcats and panthers have only been seen in Southwest Florida. Many are blaming overdevelopment as the root of the problem.
“The symptoms are a little bit confusing because the animals seem to be alert and able to function, but they’ve lost control of their hind legs," Williams Samuels, President of the Florida Panther Project said. "They’re exhibiting some disorder that we have not seen before.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife has been able to capture one bobcat and one panther showing these struggling conditions, and have confirmed that the animals are suffering neurological damage. “But the causes for that is a very long list, so they’re starting to explore every possibility," Samuels said. "They’re not ruling out anything at this point.”
FWC had only close to a dozen of these animals caught on camera with this disorder when they began their investigation, but it’s only been a few days. Another bobcat was spotted in Venice with the same symptoms. “We do have a trap that we are continuously monitoring to try and get him in to see what’s going on with him," Pamela Defouw of the Wildlife Center of Venice said.
Officials say it’s no surprise that the affected bobcat was seen in Venice. This seems to a very localized issue with all the animals being found in three general areas. “The location is of concern," Samuels said. “It seems to be centered in Southwest Florida from Sarasota down to Collier County and close to the coast.”
Some say that recent environmental issues like sewage spills and red tide could be factors or even the growth of the area. “With the increase of population of people and development, we’ve seen a rise on toxic issues," Defouw said. "It’s hard when you have a dense population of animals living in a small environment, a lot of those neurological diseases will come out.”
“This is a new and possibly very, very serious event," Samuels said. "Nobody can care about the state and not be concerned. Are there possible solutions? We hope so.”
If you see any animal experiencing these same symptoms call the Wildlife Center of Venice.