Just recently bobcats have been seen at the 78 acre Wildflower Preserve in Charlotte County, FL. I had seen bobcats on three separate occasions previously, but today I saw what must have been three different cats which I believe are an adult male, an adult female plus a kitten. The smaller adult cat is shown in the three attached photos; it was accompanied by a kitten which I was not able to photograph. This presumed female seems a bit skinny which might make sense if she has been engaged in the stress of raising young. The fact that we had not previously seen these cats tends to indicate they might have moved into Wildflower recently. Or perhaps they are more easily seen now that we have an extensive trail system, or a paucity of prey in winter has made them more visible because they are spending more time hunting in daytime. All six sightings were on our trails, and five out of six were next to ponds. Several cats were seen hunting along the edges of the ponds, which are likely a rich source of prey.
These suburban bobcats are obviously adjusted to the noises and sights of human activities. They disappear when they see humans but not at the speed with which rural bobcats have done so in my experience. Indeed this female briefly tolerated my presence (I made little motion or sound and my clothes are drab in color) while I photographed her, and she even crept down to the pond and looked for prey before withdrawing to the bushes.
The attached map shows the location of the bobcat sightings at Wildflower and the general location of the preserve in a mosaic of houses, roads, and nearby open space (parks and undeveloped land). Although alligators would be the largest predator present, and coyotes perhaps the second largest, bobcats are an impressive component of such a suburban ecosystem. Panthers are sometimes reported locally (a definitive photograph was taken at the Carlton Reserve in adjacent Sarasota County) and could be present here very rarely. The owners of Wildflower Preserve, the Lemon Bay Conservancy, have wisely decided not to permit dogs into the site, which will give the bobcats and other predators more room to roam.
I always get excited when large predators are present since it allows us to see and appreciate a little of the magnificence of pristine nature. I only hope that they may “live long and prosper.”
Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA