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In today’s installment of Wildlife Wednesday we will discuss one of our favorite residents, the Florida bobcat (Felidae rufus Floridanus). This interesting creature is the smaller of two large predatory cat species that inhabit Florida. It is also one of 12 subspecies of the bobcat (Lynx rufus).
The Florida bobcat is approximately twice the size of the average domestic house cat. Body length can range from 2-4 feet with weight from 15-25 lbs. Often, males of this species are larger than their female counterparts. The name bobcat comes from the fact that unlike many large cats, these have a short bobbed tail. Typical coloration is tan with blacks spots, a ruff around the neck, black ears with white spots in the center and a black tip on the short tail. There have been sightings of melanistic (black) individuals throughout Florida, though this variation is more rare.
Florida bobcats are habitat generalists which means that they can adapt to live in many different habitats. They’ve been observed living in rural, agricultural, suburban and even beach areas but they prefer forested areas especially for hunting. These solitary animals have territory ranges in rural settings that can be up to 6 square miles (male) and in populated or suburban areas up to 2 square miles. Usually, for breeding purposes, males have larger ranges than females. Breeding season and a mother raising kittens are the only times when this species keeps company with fellow members. Within their ranges bobcats are opportunistic carnivores, meaning that they will eat any creature that they are able to catch. Hunting occurs at dawn, dusk and night. Their excellent night vision & hearing makes this possible. Though rodents are preferred, they will eat amphibians, small reptiles, small pets and livestock, birds and even eggs and carrion (dead animals). They sometimes cover their kill with dirt, grass and debris and return to it later, this behavior is called caching.
Once a female reaches sexual maturity at around 1 year of age and a male at approximately 2 years of age, they will mate. The season for mating in Florida is August-March. After a gestation period (pregnancy) of up to 60 days, 1-4 kittens will be born. The female raises them in a den created out of a hole in rocks, trees, logs, debris piles or even dense vegetation. At the time of birth their eyes and ears are closed. The mother takes care of them alone until they the following breeding season. After leaving their mother they disperse to territories of their own. Kittens drink their mother’s milk and once old enough, will be supplemented with prey that she catches. Eventually through watching her and practice, they are able to hunt for themselves, starting with smaller & slower prey. The average lifespan of a Florida bobcat is only 2-4 years in the wild, with the oldest wild specimen recorded to be 16 years old. However, the oldest individual in captivity was 32 so the capacity for a much longer life is there. Young Florida bobcats are susceptible to predation, disease and exposure more than adults. Adults animals have few predators but may fall prey to alligators, coyotes, and large dogs. Very rarely one will be taken by a Florida panther, but they generally coexist peacefully. Unfortunately every year many bobcats fall victim to motor vehicles, poisoning and being shot by humans.
Due to their ability to adapt to different habitats and utilizing smaller ranges, bobcats tend to survive changes better than other large cats. It’s important to note that contiguous wild habitat corridors provide for a larger and healthier population. Like all predators, they play an important roll in their ecosystems, so it is important that healthy populations are maintained. As with all wildlife we encourage you to observe at a safe and respectful distance. Also be mindful of pets, pet food & trash which can lure them in to dangerous settings.
We thank you for your continued support through reading, sharing, donations and visiting. These supportive actions help us preserve our 191 acres of habitat for species like the Florida bobcat. Did you know that CMNC is part of a larger protected corridor that starts at Celery Fields and extends to Myakka State Park? Come see us and see if you can spot our resident Florida bobcat!
This picture was taken by our late member and neighbor, Bujor Burlacu. We thank his daughter Bibi for sharing it with us.