'Everybody be careful and watch your fur babies,' said one resident whose pet cat disappeared.
A bobcat or group of bobcats seems to be killing Flagler Beach residents’ pet cats, according to multiple reports from people living in the area of Flagler Beach south of State Road 100.
Debby Petty’s cat, Zoey, was killed about six weeks ago.
“We’d had her maybe seven years,” Petty said. “Little tiny black cat. Had her spayed, brought her home and she was my sweet baby girl. … She was kind of like a dog; she would come when you whistled.”
One day, she didn’t come. And her body was found, ripped with claw marks, on the neighbor’s porch.
Petty said she had neighbors whose cats had also been attacked or gone missing. And at the same time, people kept reporting seeing bobcats.
“He was in my alleyway about two months ago,” said Ted Doss, a resident of 16th Street South. “I’d seen him before and didn’t think nothing of it, and then all of the sudden a lot of cats started disappearing. ... I buried three cats I’ve seen mangled up in Flagler Beach out beside the road.”
Doss said he was concerned about the safety of his wife and his small-breed dog, a bichon frise, when she walks it at night.
“I told her not to walk in the alleyway,” he said. “It’s pretty scary because (the bobcat) is a pretty good size.”
Linda Costello, a Lakeshore Drive resident, said there have been “sightings all over the place.”
“The last (bobcat) we saw was right on top of a little deer,” she said.
Costello placed the number of domestic cats that had disappeared or been found killed at about two dozen over several months, mostly between 16th Street South and 27th Street South.
With fellow resident Lisa Field, Costello has organized a Facebook fundraiser at https://bit.ly/2urvpBC to help pay for the trapper that Costello and a handful of other local families have hired to trap the bobcat or bobcats.
“We’re not looking to harm them,” she said. “We’re just wanting to take them out to the national forest.”
Field is Costello’s niece and a Daytona State College adjunct professor and Florida Virtual School science teacher who spent her college years working on a Missouri Department of Conservation project tracking bobcats to establish their home ranges.
“Bobcats are pretty opportunistic: They will go after anything that meets their requirements,” she said. “They usually kill rabbits, young deer. A house cat would fit into their category of prey.”
She’s seen a bobcat, and also noted its tracks, near her house, which is across from Costello’s, she said.
Their presence, Field said, “means our environmen is healthy, but at the same time, a lot of our pets hang out outside.”
It’s unclear, she said, whether locals have been seeing one bobcat or many, but either way, people can protect their pets from the nocturnal hunters by keeping them inside, especially at night.
“If people could just change their routine a little bit with their animals, it might stop the killing of the pets,” she said.
Costello said she’d built in Flagler Beach in 1987 and had heard of bobcats hanging around in the past. But, she said, “We’ve never heard of anything attacking like they are right now.”
She’s trying to raise awareness.
“We know, and we’re keeping our cat in, but there’s people who don’t know,” she said.
South Daytona Avenue resident Linda Roy said that a gray trap-neuter-release cat she’d been watching over for about 10 years vanished about two weeks ago.
“It just disappeared. It’s gone,” she said. “If it wasn’t for all the others missing, I wouldn’t have thought of (a bobcat attack) … but it’s too much of a coincidence for so many of them to disappear.”
A couple weeks before her cat disappeared, she said, “I had a neighbor’s cat sitting on my window sill at about 5:30 in the morning. ... And we heard hollering, and he was gone ... and there was blood on the windowsill.”
That cat, she said, was taken to the veterinarian and survived.
Roy has arranged with the trapper to set out two traps.
“So far, we have had no luck catching him,” she said. “We’ve got several raccoons and possums. ... I’ve been here 20 years, and this is the first time we’ve had one going around grabbing domestic animals.”
Kim Lane, of South Central Avenue, also had a cat disappear.
“She was kind of an inside-outside kitty,” Lane said. “We put her out the night of June 1, and she never came in the next morning. ... She goes out every night and this has never happened.”
A woman who lives behind Lane saw a bobcat, she said. “She said she saw it around 7:20, so I get up every morning and sneak out to see if I see it, but I haven’t,” she said. “We’re just broken-hearted. That kitty was a member of my family. She found us 13 and a half years ago. And she was street smart; she was savvy. Going out every night for 13 and a half years, she knew her way around. ... Just everybody be careful and watch your fur babies.”