Residents are reporting sightings of all kinds of wildlife throughout the county as the drought drives animals to search for food and water in yards and even on porches.
Bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, skunks, possums and snakes are among the wildlife visiting properties in Glen Rose and in unincorporated parts of the county. Residents have reported their chickens being killed and small pets such as cats disappearing.
Tammy Ray, the city's animal control officer and rabies control authority for the county, said she wanted people to be aware that predatory animals such as coyotes, bobcats and foxes are following their prey, which are looking for water and food as well.
She urged residents to dump out water around homes at night, pick up cat or dog food outside and to bring small pets inside.
“Wild animals are thirsty and their prey is thirsty,” Ray said. "If they're chasing a cottontail rabbit, they may come right up on your property."
“We've got cougars in the county,” she added. “Their tracking radius is huge, at least 100 miles.”
Indeed, what some experts are calling the worst drought since the Dust Bowl years is driving wildlife to search for food and water in some unusual places.
In El Paso in May, a female cougar was shot when she wandered into the downtown area. A fireman spotted what he thought was a mountain lion near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Gray foxes have been trapped by residents in Coppell.
Many Somervell County residents put out corn feeders and water troughs to attract wildlife such as deer. And deer are moving around looking for food, which means they are foraging along roadways. Motorists should slow down and stay alert for deer at all times of the day, not just early morning and night, since they are on the move in the search for food and water.
If residents want to provide water for wildlife, they should “set it way back on your property,” away from where people might encounter them, Ray advised.
Residents also should not take wild animals into their garages, barns or other structures and should not pick up any wild animal, even babies, no matter how cute they are, she added. Instead, they should call animal control or the Somervell County Sheriff's Department, Ray said.
Five creatures carry rabies — raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes and bats. Although it's been several years since Somervell County had a recorded rabies case, rabies is out there, she said.
"We probably have it here, but haven't had anything here to pick up and send off" to the state testing lab, Ray said. "Please vaccinate your animals."
Ray has contacts for trappers who can help residents with wild animals and for rehab centers that will take in creatures such as baby raccoons. She also will pick up snakes, even non-poisonous ones, for residents who encounter them and want them to be relocated.
"Snakes are predators, too," Ray said. "They are after prey, which is coming near homes."
Call the city's Animal Control Department at 254-897-3113 for more information and help if you encounter wild animals on your property.