LAUDERHILL, FLA. (WSVN) - An elderly couple in Lauderhill has been transported to the hospital after they were attacked by an animal believed to be a bobcat.
Lauderhill Fire Rescue crews responded to the scene of Northwest 44th Street and Inverrary Drive at around 5 a.m., Friday.
Rescue officials said 85-year-old Eslyn Fray suffered puncture wounds to her face and arms and lost part of her finger. She was transported to Broward Health Medical Center and is said to be in fair condition.
Her husband, 71-year-old Rupert Fray, who just had open-heart surgery, fell down while trying to protect his wife. He was also transported to Broward Health Medical Center, but he has since been discharged and remains by his wife’s side.
Fray’s brother said when he saw the early morning call from Rupert, he knew something was wrong.
“Very scary to see him calling me at six o’clock in the morning, so we know something must be wrong,” said Fray. “He went to help her, and he fell down and has a fractured hip. He was trying to help his wife when a bobcat attacked her. He was trying to help out with his condition. He has a heart problem.”
Fray said his brother and sister-in-law would take their early morning walks everyday.
A maintenance worker told 7News about what he heard from officers at the scene.
“I came out, saw the police and walked down here where they were, and they’re saying that [the bobcat] was in the tree, and it came down,” he said. “They’ll sleep in the trees. If they were walking that early in the morning, I would say a lot of those creatures are out at that time.”
Officers searched the area for the bobcat but have not been able to locate it.
“We have no confirmation that it was a bobcat,” said Lauderhill Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Levy. “Not sure exactly what the animal was. She does have injuries consistent with an animal attack but Fish and Wildlife Commission is out here trying to determine what the animal was that attacked the lady. If indeed it was a bobcat attack, which we have no confirmation that it was, that would be an unusual event in a metropolitan area like this.”
The family shared video of the couple at the hospital where they are recovering.
“She’s talking now. She’s moving around in pain,” said Fray. “She lose a right finger, she have a chip on her forehead, stitches and all over her body has been bitten. She has bites all over the arms — both arms. Face, lips, everywhere with bites.”
Both victims said they are certain it was a bobcat that attacked them.
“An animal attack can happen anywhere,” Levy said. “Whether it’s a dog, cat, raccoon — animal attacks happen all the time. They are pretty adamant that it was a bobcat — and when I say ‘they’ the husband and wife are pretty adamant that a bobcat attacked the lady.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials are investigating, but they said while a bobcat attack is rare, it could happen.
“They live here. They are from here,” FWC spokesperson Tyson Matthews said. “They have a wide distribution. They can live really in shrub habitat, pines, palmettos.”
“Bobcats are generally going to avoid humans,” Amy Knight of the Busch Wildlife Sanctuary said. “They’re generally going to avoid your dogs, your cats and other animals as well.”
Residents in the complex where the attack took place said they have been warned to look out for alligators but never bobcats.
“I saw her on the ground. She was sitting down,” said neighbor Veronica Wong. “I asked her, ‘What happened?’ and she said, ‘Bobcat, Victoria.’ I said, ‘Bobcat?’ and she said, ‘Yes.’ She was all in blood– her head, her hand and her legs.”
When asked if she would be cautious on her walks from now on, Wong responded, “We’re not walking down there again. I know of alligator, but I didn’t know of bobcat.”
7News cameras showed officers searching for the possible bobcat near where the victims said they were attacked.
“I’ve heard of foxes in the neighborhood,” resident Lincoln Hinds said. “There’s a lot of iguanas. A bobcat in this neighborhood is incredible. I’m sure she would’ve been able to tell an iguana from a cat, and the bites on the woman, I mean, it definitely wasn’t an average-sized cat. That’s for sure.”
Resident Nedia Geraldo said she may think twice about her morning walk.
“I don’t want to walk anymore in the morning, especially during the day,” she said.
“We’re in Florida, so we expect the animals but a bobcat or something that can attack like that? Maybe it was owned by someone? Domestic? It just doesn’t make sense, you know,” resident Nancy Parisiem said.
Officials are advising residents that encounter an animal to call 911.
“We ask if anybody sees an animal that looks out of the ordinary for the area to call 911 and don’t approach it,” Levy said.
FWC said they are continuing to investigate, but they did not find a bobcat during their search.
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