Injured bobcat bites woman who tried to help in Riverview
TAMPA Getting a glimpse of a bobcat isn't easy. The elusive creatures hunt at night and are wary of people, wildlife officials said. So getting attacked by the felines is almost unheard of. There are only about a half-dozen cases in the state's history where a bobcat pounced on a person, said Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.But an uncommon encounter transpired today in Riverview when a good Samaritan stopped to lend a hand to an injured bobcat — and was bitten when she tried to move the animal. The woman stopped her car on U.S. 301 near Symmes Road about 9 a.m. after seeing what she thought was a housecat that was hit by another car, wildlife officials said. The woman placed a towel over the bobcat's head and tried to lift it, said Robert Scholl, a state wildlife law enforcement officer. She thought it had been knocked unconscious, but as she picked it up, the feline came to and bit her right hand through the towel, Morse said. The woman initially refused medical treatment, but changed her mind and went to a local hospital, Morse said. The bobcat caused a traffic jam on U.S. 301, according to a 911 call released today. An unidentified motorist called dispatchers and told them, "People are trying to catch a bobcat in the median." The dispatcher replied, "A bobcat?" "Yeah," the unidentified caller said. "Everybody's getting out of their cars trying to catch the cat." Bobcats are common in the Tampa Bay area and the population of the felines across the region is healthy, Morse said. The Florida Department of Health also is investigating the incident. Health officials did not release the woman's name, citing medical privacy laws. The bobcat was taken to Hillsborough County Animal Services and euthanized, standard procedure when a wild animal bites a person, said agency spokeswoman Marti Ryan. The animal suffered severe injuries to its back, and it was best to put it down humanely, Morse said. Its brain matter will be sent to a lab, where it will be tested for rabies, Ryan said. The woman who tried to help the feline will be notified of the results — expected in a few days — and if the animal tested positive for rabies, she will be advised to get additional treatment, Ryan said. "When it is in this high-risk category, it becomes a public health issue," Ryan said. "It was a gorgeous animal. The driver meant well. But she learned a lesson the hard way." The wildlife commission warns people to avoid handling wild animals, especially when they are sick or injured. Anyone who comes into contact with a sick or injured animal should call 911 or the wildlife commission at 1-888-404-3922.
TBO producer Julio Ochoa contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org (813) 259-7920