MYAKKA CITY, Fla. - The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is searching for a possible tiger after receiving a call about someone seeing a 'large cat' Thursday night.
According to officials, they received a call around 7:00 p.m. that someone in Myakka City spotted a large cat, possibly a tiger, near Crosby Road.
Deputies and the Florida Wildlife Commission responded, but have not located or spotted any large cats despite aerial and ground searches.
Officers continued to search through the day on Friday, but nothing was spotted, casting doubt on the spotting.
"A couple months ago we have the report of a lion coming down the street in Sarasota and of course we're right down the street so immediately we got a dozen calls about a lion," says Clayton Rosaire of Big Cat Habitat in Sarasota. "We when they got a second view of the lion it was a 65 lbs coyote. So to mistake a 500 lbs lion with a 65 lbs coyote is just an example of what may have happened," added Rosaire to ABC Action News.
Rosaire adds that he and all the other local exotic animal owners go to great lengths to protect their lions and tigers, including padlocked cages and several layers of fencing. Another local owner explained she had the same protections around her property.
FWC says all the locally-known exotic animals have been accounted for. Myakka City is known to being home to several exotic animal caretakers who partake in traveling carnival and animal shows, which may be the reason someone in the area jumped to conclusions about what they may or may not have seen.
"All the people who might have them out there are people who have had them for many generations, many years. These are professionals who take great care of their animals," Rosaire says.
The FWC released the following statement:
The FWC, along with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, is investigating reports received by MCSO this evening of multiple large cats in Myakka City. Officers from both agencies have responded to the area to conduct searches and captive wildlife investigators are checking captive wildlife facilities in the region to determine if any large cats have escaped. At this time, this report is unconfirmed, but if anyone sees any large cats in the area, do not approach, get indoors and call 911 or FWC’s Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-3922.
Anyone who has information is asked to call either the MCSO or FWC.