Neighbors: Possible Florida panther killing animals

Wildlife officials analyzing paw prints for signs of animal in Sanford

Published On: Oct 04 2012 10:18:11 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 06 2012 12:22:17 PM EDT
SANFORD, Fla. -

UPDATE: FWC officials have now analyzed an animal track and do not believe a panther is responsible for the attacks.

Wildlife officials are telling homeowners to be careful because something is attacking animals.

Neighbors told Local 6 they they spotted what they believe is a panther attacking a goat Wednesday night.  Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are warning neighbors around Richmond Avenue in Sanford near Lake Mary Boulevard and the Orlando-Sanford International Airport.

"We had just laid down to go to bed and all of a sudden I heard this ungodly screaming in our back yard," said Stephanie Spears, who said she and her husband ran out to find a Florida panther feet from her family's home. "He ran out and saw the panther on top of one of our goats. It had it pinned down by the throat."

They scared the animal off with a flashlight and it jumped over a fence.

A newly-erected fence was not enough to save Kim Baker's animals. Something killed her 120-pound pregnant goat, and two cats. A veterinarian told her the bite marks were large and possibly from a panther.

"The bite was big enough that it could take down my horse and my horse weighs probably 1,100 pounds," said Baker. "If he can take down an 1,100 pound horse, then he could take me down."

Baker has animal tracks all over her property; fresh ones leading to her horse pasture.

Now, Spears drives her kids to the bus stop, afraid the large predator may still be lurking in the woods.

"We were hoping that considering the number of animals that it's killed or tried to kill, that perhaps we can get someone to trap it," she said.

Despite their pleas, wildlife officials said they have no plans to trap the big cat.

"Which doesn't give me a whole lot of comfort, because if I see it again, that means it's going to be attacking something on my property again, which is one of my animals or one of my kids," said Spears.

FWC officials do not know what is killing the animals, but they've found a large paw print that they're sending to a lab to be analyzed and they're telling people to secure animals indoors, especially at night.

Conservationists are trying to grow the panther population, and it would be a positive sign for the species if it's moving this far north. FCW created a new website for people to help officials track Florida panthers.