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Wildlife adapting to urban area (with video)

MANATEE — As housing developments push farther out east and take up large swaths of wildlife habitat, the alligators, bobcats and coyotes are not necessarily leaving.

They may be adapting to urban living.

There are reports of coyotes attacking small dogs in Northwest Bradenton and alligators in condominium retentions ponds.

Jay Carbary, who lives in Elwood Park, said he had to shoot two bobcats, one on Sunday and the other March 11, that had been attacking his wife’s pet ducks.

“We’ve always had them (bobcats) out here,” Carbary said, “but it seems they have gotten more aggressive and brazen over the past year, year-and-half.”

The male bobcat was 30 pounds and the female was just under 30 pounds, he said.

“The female was on my pool deck about five feet from me, crouched in a pounce position,” Carbary said.

He said he and his neighbors have been chasing more and more bobcats, coyotes and red foxes away from their property.

“You could be sitting out on your porch and hear gun shots,” Carbary said. “I’ve shot at the coyotes several times.”

He said his wife raises Peking and blue ducks and nine days ago 18 were swimming in the pond behind their home on 34th Avenue East.

“She’s now down to 12,” Carbary said.

Elwood Park, a neighborhood of mostly 1-2-acre lots around the intersection of 46th Street East and 34th Avenue East, was platted in the 1950s and was considered out in the boondocks until the mid-1980s.

Since then several developments have sprung up to the south, and with the Braden River to the east and north, and the River Run Golf Links and Mixon Fruit Farm to the west, the furry wildlife have been making the backyards of Elwood Park their hunting grounds.

Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission office in Lakeland, said ducks are the natural prey for bobcats.

But the squeeze wildlife is feeling from development is not the only reason the predators are attacking pets and smaller yard animals and birds, Morse said.

“I suspect the opportunity is there for them,” he said. “People leaving pet food out for animals (such as squirrels and song birds) that are prey for the larger animals.

“They’re becoming more acclimated to associate people with feeding opportunities,” Morse said.

He said bobcats are considered a fur-bearing game animal, and a hunting license is usually needed to shoot one.

Homeowners are permitted to shoot if the animal threatens livestock, which domesticated ducks are considered, Morse said.

But the Fish and Wildlife Commission recommends the best way to deal with bobcats would be to remove or protect the animals’ source of food, he said.

The commission’s Web site, www.myfwc.com, has information on protecting livestock from predators, and homeowners can contact the nuisance animal biologist at (863) 648-3200.

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