Last updated on: 5/11/2007 5:57:04 PM
COLLIER COUNTY: An endangered Florida Panther was spotted earlier this week inside a gated community in Collier County. Wildlife experts say it's a rare encounter that could become more common.
The latest sighting was in a community just off of Davis Boulevard.
Tammy Rye spotted the big cat after it startled her dog. Scout started barking at the panther.
"At this point I'm like oh my God; I don't know what this is. I'm on the phone calling people I know," said Rye.
She thought it was a bobcat, but authorities showed up and told her she was mistaken.
"The police were here too and they're like, that's a panther, that's not a bobcat," said Rye.
The panther was in a nearby tree. Biologists say the big cats aren't supposed to be so close to town.
"We haven't had to deal with it historically," said Mark Lotz, panther biologist.
Lotz says development and a booming panther population is pushing animals out of their natural habitat.
"They follow old habitat linkages, but they don't lead to an empty piece of woods anymore, they lead to a gated development," said Lotz.
Another problem, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission says more pets are getting attacked by panthers.
So far this year, at least four pets have been killed by panthers. Lotz thinks it could start happening more often.
"This whole phenomenon of panthers attacking goats is something brand new to us and every so often, I think that's going happen. They're going to wind their way and get into town someplace or another," said Lotz.
Rye's close encounter with a panther has made her more cautious.
"Everyday when I come out now, I look and if I see anything in the bushes. I kind of look again, but, no I'm not afraid," she said.