Get to know a neighbor: Bobcats (Lynx rufus) - These Florida felines are beautiful, graceful and athletic

Visitors come to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park to see and learn about Florida’s wildlife. The park is currently home to two male Florida bobcats that live in a natural habitat. The bobcats named Tank and Antonio, started their lives as pets in different families. When they could no longer care for them, they were brought to our wildlife park which serves as a refuge for injured, orphaned and imprinted animals that could not otherwise survive in the wild. Bobcats are usually solitary animals and come together only to breed. Although these two bobcats came from different situations they have bonded, and get along surprisingly well. Did you know The bobcat is the most common wildcat in North America. Current populations are estimated at between 725,000 to 1,020,000 remaining in the wild. In the early to mid-1900s, bobcat populations in many Midwestern and eastern states were had declined due to hunting for the increased value of their fur. International laws began to protect the world’s spotted cats in the 1970s. As a result, populations have rebounded. These beautiful, graceful and athletic cats are about twice the size of a house cat. They have bobbed tails and their ears have tufts of dark hair at the tips. They purr like domestic cats, but they also make screaming and squealing noises when females are in heat. Kittens are often born in early spring in litters of one to six kittens. The bobcat’s habitat includes forest, mountains and even semi-deserts. Preferred habitats include dense vegetation and an abundance of prey. These cats are excellent hunters and stalk their prey with both stealth and patience. They can capture their prey in one bounding leap. They are carnivores and prefer rodents and rabbits, but will also take reptiles, fish, birds and insects. What you can do Bobcats are dangerous. Respect wild animals and do not attempt to keep them as pets. As human population increases, habitat space for wildlife survival decreases, therefore support the efforts of State Fish and Wildlife agencies to study bobcats and other wildlife through tracking, capturing and collaring these animals to determine their movement and determine which habitats are important to their survival. Resources: Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission and Defenders of Wildlife

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or