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SOUTHLAKE — It happened every morning without fail: Jim Dawson put on his coffee, and his three cats, Bruno, Dot and Missy, came running in to receive a treat.
So when Bruno didn’t come through the pet door one day last week, Dawson said he knew something had happened.
"For him not to be there, it had to be something exceptional," Dawson said.
Bruno’s remains were later found in a neighbor’s yard, apparently the victim of a bobcat attack.
Dawson and his wife began talking to neighbors in The Hills of Monticello, a high-dollar subdivision in Southlake and Colleyville, and learned that bobcats, which can weigh 25 to 35 pounds fully grown, had been spotted in the area and some residents had missing or dead cats.
"I was unaware that there had been recent bobcat sightings, much less killings, not only in the area but literally across the street," Dawson said. "That is what lit the fire under us."
Al Zito, president of the Hills of Monticello Homeowner’s Association, said that bobcats had been seen for two or three months and that residents were warned in e-mails, newsletters and on the association’s Web site to keep their pets inside and their pet doors down. Still, he said, at least two residents have lost cats.
"Bobcats are native to the area and pose no harm to humans," he said. "But if a small animal is out in the evening, it [a bobcat] is going to do its natural thing."
Zito said the association has hired Critter Control, a wildlife removal company, to try to trap the bobcats (they think there are two) and move them at least 150 miles away. The company, which is expected to set traps today, will be using bait made from a bobcat gland.
"It is a really strong attractant," said Jason Livingston, a wildlife control specialist with Critter Control. ". . . We have a really good success rate."
At least one city official, however, doesn’t agree with the relocation plan. Among other things, he said, bobcats eat small wild animals and rodents that could otherwise become a nuisance.
"Most of our urban wildlife provides a great service to our citizens and most people don’t realize they do," said Roderick Page, community initiative officer for Southlake Department of Public Safety. "Those animals were in the area before most of those houses were built."
Page said the city advocates tolerance and respect for wild animals over trapping and relocating them, which could be detrimental to the animal. Foxes, coyotes, raccoons and opossums are commonly seen in the region.
He also said the city has a program in conjunction with the DFW Wildlife Coalition to educate homeowners about living with urban wildlife.
"If they feel a need to hire a licensed trapper to remove the bobcat, they are within their right to do so," Page said. "But they have to realize that if you remove the natural predator, just prepare for other things to move in."
For the Dawson family, the bobcats are a little too close for comfort.
Not only have some neighbors reported seeing bobcats walking on top of fences, but the family also said something ripped apart the bag that contained Bruno’s remains the night after he was killed. And, they said, they also lost Bruno’s mother, Jennifer, a couple of years ago to a wild animal.
"We had no idea what it could have been and we are now beginning to wonder if it was the same bobcat," Karen Dawson said.
The Dawsons said one of their neighbors has a missing cat and other neighbors recently found their cat dead, leaving them to wonder how many more people have missing pets in the Monticello subdivision, which has 100 homes in Southlake and 200 homes in Colleyville.
"No one knows how many pets are missing or how many residents have lost a pet in the last three to six months and just chalked it up to running away," Jim Lawson said. "We need to get a better understanding of what we are all facing."
Credits: By Melody McDonald & Elizabeth Zavala - Star-Telegram.com