As forests shrink, bobcats roam into neighborhoods and parks

Bobcats, such as this one with its prey, make their home in Titusville’s Enchanted Forest Sanctuary and other wooded areas in Brevard County.

While walking her dog, Boss Hogg, along a rural Mims road, Lenore Barton got a surprise.

Just ahead, she spotted a bobcat standing in the road, watching her and Boss.

“I stood still and forced myself to relax, so Boss wouldn’t start any trouble,” Barton said. “The bobcat stared, then shook his little tail and trotted off into the woods.”

Such encounters are not unusual in the Sunshine State.

“Bobcats are fairly common in Florida,” said James Lyon, a biologist with the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, bobcats are about twice the size of a domestic cat and tan to yellowish brown, with brown or black streaks and a bobbed tail. They are primarily nocturnal.

“Bobcats have been sighted in Cocoa Beach, Fox Lake Park and Chain of Lakes Park,” said Jeff Davis, the operations manager for North Brevard Parks and Recreation. “Any densely wooded area is suitable for bobcats.”

Among these are the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Enchanted Forest Sanctuary.

Bobcats make their way into neighborhoods.

“The more we build, the less property wildlife has. If necessary, they will cohabitate with humans, just like the alligator,” he said.

Davis has seen a bear in his neighborhood, as well as brown foxes, deer and wild hogs on his property.

By keeping her cool during her wildlife encounter, Barton ensured that she, Boss and the bobcat emerged without incident.

Safety measures include not shouting, throwing things or inciting in any way.

“Bobcats are generally not a threat to humans, but should not be approached because any mammal, except for the opossum, can be rabid. We don’t always recognize the symptoms,” Lyon said.

He urged pet owners to watch domestic cats and small dogs, because bobcats are predators.

Lyon cautioned against putting food out for animals. “Even food for stray cats can attract other animals,” he said.

“They will equate food to humans and we don’t want that equation,” Davis said. “Humans need to understand our role. We encourage co-existence.”

For more information about the bobcat and other wildlife, visit myfwc.com