Florida state park’s lone bobcat struck and killed

Lovers Key’s lone bobcat struck and killed
 
By VALLI FINNEY (Contact)
Originally published 8:36 p.m., Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Updated 9:08 p.m., Wednesday, October 1, 2008
 
BONITA SPRINGS — A bobcat first seen strolling through Lovers Key State Park during the July 4 weekend was apparently killed by a vehicle sometime last weekend.
The cat was found near the base of San Carlos Pass Bridge Monday morning, said Brie Ochoa, park service specialist at Lovers Key.
 
“From what we could tell, we’re hoping it was killed instantly,” she said.
 
Bobcats are prevalent throughout Florida and can be hunted, said Gary Morse, a spokesman with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
 
But this is the first documented instance of a bobcat at Lovers Key, Ochoa said.
 
“It was exciting to think we could still provide a habitat for a mammal like that,” Ochoa said while explaining the park has nearly a million visitors a year.
 
“It was a little female,” she said. “For us it is even a bit more sad. A female probably would have stuck around the park. A male probably would have been roaming around looking for a companion. But a female probably had a better chance around the park.
 
“We do have plenty of habitat out here for it,” Ochoa said. “We have a good population of marsh rabbit on Black Island.”
 
No one knows how the bobcat made its way to the state park, located on the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers Beach.
 
A necropsy — animal autopsy — will not be done on the cat because of the obvious vehicle strike. Because of the type of injuries she suffered, park staff determined she could not be used for educational or interpretive purposes. It was buried at the park.
 
Morse said the bobcat population in Florida is healthy, but many people may not realize they’ve been close to one.
 
“It’s likely the majority of the people who have had contact with bobcats don’t know they have contact with them,” he said. “There are some that are used to seeing people and they may not shy away … you should not approach them.”
 
Usually they will not come close to humans and humans need not fear an attack.
 
Florida has seen about five people attacked by the cats in the past 60 to 70 years, Morse said. Of those, four were rabid animals and the fifth, a person was attempting to feed the animal at Myakka River State Park.
 
As with any wild animal, humans should not attempt to feed or interact with them.
 
Bobcats are known to feed on small animals such as birds, lizards and rodents.
 
Sometimes they may eat a turkey.
 
Morse said the most difficult thing for humans to understand is that numbers of animals doesn’t mean as much as adaptability in an animal to determine the health of a population.
 
Bobcats can “tolerate a considerable amount of urbanization,” Morse said. “They are generally solitary animals. They co-exist throughout Florida with panthers and bears.”
 
The animals do not eat the same prey or food items, he said.
 
“They aren’t in competition,” Morse said. They are smaller than a panther, have shorter tails and spots. A big bobcat can weigh up to 35 pounds.
 
Generally bobcats are nocturnal, but it’s not unusual to see them in the day time.
 
As for Lovers Key, staff there hopes to have another cat visit.
 
“The chances seem very unlikely especially because we don’t know how this one got here in the first place. But, it seemed to be happy once it made its way out,” Ochoa said.
 
“Everyone kind of said the same thing,” Ochoa said. “You wish you could just put a gate around the park and protect everything around here. As hard as we try to protect the resources, they are still exposed.”
 
E-mail Valli Finney at vallimfinney@yahoo.com
 
For more information about bobcats, go to http://myfwc.com/CRITTERS/bobcat.htm
 
http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2008/oct/01/lovers-keys-lone-bobcat-struck-and-killed/
 
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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at https://bigcatrescue.org
 
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