Florida, also known as the Sunshine State, is home to an abundance of wildlife. On any given day, you can see bears, raccoons, otters, deer, foxes, lizards, birds, alligators, turtles, snakes, and even manatees, just to name a few.
Florida is also home to two species of wildcats—the panther and the bobcat—and their beauty is something to admire. In this article, we’ll discuss these two species and go over their unique characteristics. If you live in Florida, we hope this article helps you identify these two wildcats just in case you spot one.
The 2 Types of Wild Cats in Florida
1. The Florida Bobcat
The Florida bobcat, also known as a Florida lynx, is twice as big as domestic cats. They have bobbed tails, hence the name, and have white spots on the back of their short, pointed ears. Bobcats are generally tannish to reddish brown with brown or black spots. Younger bobcats have spotted fur with more distinctive facial markings. A bobcat’s body length averages between 2–4 feet long. Males are bigger than females, and the average weight is between 15–35 pounds.
In Florida, you can find bobcats in swamps, deep forests, and hammock land. Breeding occurs in the fall, winter, and spring with a gestation period of 50–60 days, and there are anywhere from one to four kittens in a litter. The bobcat’s average lifespan is 3–4 years in the wild. In captivity, one bobcat lived to 32 years old.
The Florida bobcat can be found in all 67 counties of Florida. The only place they have not been seen over the last several decades is the Florida Keys. Subsequently, Florida scientists believe the bobcat population in Florida is declining. On the other hand, wildlife officials in the state do not believe the bobcat population is at risk.
Fun Facts About the Bobcat
2. The Florida Panther
The other wildcat species in Florida is, of course, the Florida panther. Black is usually the color that comes to mind when you think of panthers, but in Florida, they are not black at all but rather a tannish-brown color with white underbellies. Also known as the Florida puma or Florida cougar, the Florida panther averages between 5–7 feet long and can weigh between 60–160 pounds. The Florida panther’s tail is equally as long as its body but with a distinctive feature: the tail is crocked with a distinctive patch of fur on the back.
In Florida, you can find them in wetlands, forests, and grasslands, mainly south of Orlando and the southwestern tip of Florida, but males have been spotted as far north as Georgia. Breeding can occur throughout the year but mainly occurs from December to March. Litters usually contain only two to three young. In the wild, the Florida panther can live between 8–15 years. They prey on white-tailed deer and hogs but occasionally feed on birds, rabbits, raccoons, armadillos, and even alligators. They are also most active at dusk and dawn.
The Florida panther’s population is dwindling. Only 120–230 exist today, and they were one of the first species added to the endangered species list in 1967. Wildlife conservationists believe their major threat is habitat loss due to human construction, fragmentation, and road kills.
Fun Facts About the Florida Panther
The Florida bobcat and the Florida Panther are elegant in their gaits and remarkable hunters. Suppose you’re interested in joining the effort to protect these extraordinary creatures, especially the endangered Florida panther. In that case, you can contact the Nature Conservancy to find ways you can help, either by a monetary donation or volunteering your time at events.
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Featured Image: Rejean Aline Bedard, Shutterstock