PHOENIX, AZ (3TV/CBS 5)-- A bobcat attacked and killed a small dog in Ahwatukee over the weekend and the owner wants to use this as a warning to her neighbors about what could be lurking near their homes.
It happened at a home near 15th Street and Liberty Lane. The house has a fenced backyard next to a golf course.
Christie Higginbotham said she was at her friend's house having a pool party all day and was wrapping up the night on Saturday. Her two dogs, named Bailey and Gizmo, were let out before everyone went to bed. But disaster struck just a few moments later.
"Less than 7 seconds, I would say. [My friend] heard a yelp and then she heard my other dog just going bonkers, just absolutely crazy and she knew that it was bad," Higginbotham said.
The porch light didn't quite shine toward the back of the yard, which is where the bobcat attacked.
"She grabbed her flashlight and there was a cat just slinking back and forth, like this, and you could see its tail," Higginbotham said. "It was the most helpless feeling in the world because there was nothing we could do. It was really horrible."
She said the bobcat was going in and out of the bougainvillea plant against the wall and she couldn't find Bailey.
"There was no question in any of our minds, at that point when I came out, that Bailey was gone because there was no noise at all. There wasn't crying. There wasn't whimpering. It was silent," she said.
Her other dog, Gizmo, barked at the bobcat relentlessly until they could get her inside. They said the bobcat didn't seem afraid of them at all.
"It was not dissuaded by screaming, yelling, clapping, screaming hysterically-- which we tried," Higginbotham said.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) said it's normal for wildlife to protect its prey in this kind of instance.
"Just like if you try to take a bone away from your dog, some dogs would actually fight back or snarl at you-- that's what this bobcat actually did in this situation," said Amy Burnett, a spokeswoman for AZGFD.
Burnett said bobcats attack more pets in the Valley than anyone realizes, and she says it's not going to stop until homeowners start scaring them off.
"The more comfortable they are getting close to people, the more likely this is to happen. And we are going to see it over and over again in the areas where people are tolerant of bobcats being in their backyard," Burnett explained. "You see pictures of a bobcat on Facebook on a lawn chair in a backyard and everyone thinks, 'Oh, that's sweet.' But that means that someone is not doing their job of scaring a bobcat away, and your neighbor's small dog might be the one to go next because the bobcat knows it can take advantage of that small prey."
Burnett suggests having an empty can with a couple of pennies inside next to your backdoor. If you see a bobcat, shake it at them. She also says yelling in a low, stern voice will scare them away.
"It's worth it to get those bobcats used to being scared away by humans rather than saying, 'I think I can take this dog and won't have any repercussions from it.'"
Burnett says that in Higginbotham's case, she did everything right-- the yard was fenced and the dogs were being watched. She believes this "urbanized" bobcat just took an opportunity.
"It wasn't anything for that bobcat to jump the fence and grab a dog while that person was fairly close by," Burnett said.
In this sort of situation, AZGFD officials will not step in to relocate the bobcat.
"Arizona Game and Fish is not going to come in and remove a bobcat for taking what it thinks as small prey items that it's used to eating-- like jackrabbits. A Shih tzu is the same size as a jackrabbit-- this is normal bobcat behavior," Burnett explained. "It's not like, today it's Shih tzu's [and] tomorrow it's your children. This is a bobcat that said, 'This is the right size and look it's contained in a backyard, I think I'm going to go for it and the last time I went into someone's yard, I didn't get scared away.'"
Burnett said AZGFD would only step in to remove a bobcat if it threatened humans.
Higginbotham believes the bobcat was originally after rabbits that were near the roots of the bougainvillea plant, but the dogs were let out at the perfect time for the bobcat. The next morning, she found what was left of Bailey under the bougainvillea.
Since the attack, Higginbotham has trimmed under the bushes, so the area is more visible. She recommends her neighbors take care of their landscaping the same way.
"Animals are going to hunt and if you move into their backyard we're going to have to just figure out how we're going to do it together I guess," she said.