Southern Florida is home to many unique carnivores including two large cat species, the Florida panther and the bobcat. The bobcat is a less well-known species that can be found throughout most of North America. Found in wild cypress swamps, prairies, hardwood hammocks, and pinelands of Big Cypress National Preserve, the bobcat of southern Florida has maintained a healthy population and is not listed as state or federally threatened or endangered.
How do you know it when you see it?
The Floridian subspecies of bobcat are found throughout the state and can be easily identified by their uniquely spotted fur coat. Although the Florida panther experiences a spotted phase as a kitten and then develops a uniformly beige coat, the fur coat of the bobcat is a red-gold and features brown and black spots throughout its entire life. Other identifying characteristics of the bobcat are the short "bobbed" tail and ears, which are white with a black outline on the back and often have small pointed tufts of fur at the tips.
The size of a Big Cypress bobcat can vary depending on the gender, but the species overall reaches the size of a medium-sized dog with males weighing up to 24 pounds and females weighing up to 15 pounds.
What's for dinner?
Both female and male bobcats are very territorial and will defend their ranges with force to maintain prey resources and mating access. Bobcats mainly feed on small mammals, rodents, and birds, but they have been known to eat reptiles, fish, and even insects; due to their small size it is rare, but possible for a bobcat to take a deer or a feral hog.
Where can I see a bobcat?
It is rare to spot one in the wild. One reason for this is that bobcats are very active and do not rest for more than a few hours at a time. The majority of their active period occurs around sundown and sunrise, and the majority of their rest occurs around afternoon and midnight. Another reason that bobcats are difficult to spot in the wild is that they are very shy and avoid human contact, refusing to give in to the curiosity that would surely kill the cat.
Home range for the bobcat also varies with gender. Male bobcats will often have a home range of 10-15 square miles that often overlaps the range of females, and females will often occupy a home range of 5-10 square miles.