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'That's a bobcat, not a neighborhood cat!' Niceville woman recounts bobcat encounter

Nick Tomecek
Northwest Florida Daily News
Verna Sesso spotted this bobcat outside her bedroom window in the backyard of her Niceville home on Friday.

NICEVILLE — Verna Sesso looked out her bedroom window Friday morning and saw what looked like a neighbor's cat in the backyard.

"I got close and said, 'Thats a bobcat, not a neighborhood cat.' "

Sesso grabbed her phone and took a photo.

More:Bobcat among wildlife spotted roaming the NWFSC campus

Sesso and her husband have lived in Niceville for about 20 years. In that time she has seen foxes, opossums and raccoons in their backyard, but never a bobcat.

The encounter took place about 7:30 a.m. as she was preparing for her morning workout. Her neighbors told her they had spotted a bobcat recently.

"Maybe it was waiting for breakfast," she joked.

More:PHOTOS: Bobcat, raccoon at Northwest Florida State College

Sesso didn't know where the bobcat came from, but speculated that it might have traveled from nearby Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park or gotten chased away by construction work at a hotel development in her neighborhood along Rocky Bayou.

"He was beautiful and he looked healthy. It was quite an experience to see him," she said.

BOBCAT FACTS

(From the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences)

  • Scientific name: Lynx rufus floridanus
  • Common names: bobcat, wildcat, bay lynx, lynx cat, pallid lynx
  • Habitat: All habitats, including urban areas
  • Physical description: Twice as large as a domestic cat with brown/tan and white fur, small black spots and a short "bobbed" tail tipped with black. Back of ears black with white spot. Short snout. Often has a “ruff” around the neck. Body length between 2 to 4 feet.
  • Weight: 15–35 pounds, males typically larger than females
  • Reproductive rate: 50-60 day gestation, 1-4 kittens/litter
  • Lifespan: 3-4 years in the wild. The oldest reported bobcat in the wild was 16 years old, and the oldest in captivity was 32 years old.
  • Dispersal and home range: Kittens disperse at about 8 months of age. Range size in rural areas is 5-6 miles, and in urban or suburban areas is 1-2 miles. Male bobcats have larger home ranges than females.

Biology and behavior: Bobcats are members of the cat family (Felidae) and are habitat generalists, meaning they will use almost all habitats, including urban areas, beaches and some agricultural areas. They prefer areas with thick cover for hunting. They will commonly climb trees or swim in search of food and are often found sunning and sheltering among branches. Bobcats are opportunistic carnivores and will eat whatever they can catch. Although they prefer rabbits and rodents, bobcats also eat small reptiles, birds, feral cats, carrion, eggs and occasionally deer and small livestock. Bobcats do most of their hunting at dawn, dusk, and through the night. Adult bobcats are solitary. Males and females are only found together during the breeding season (August–March). Female bobcats are sexually mature at about 1 year old, and males at about 2 years. Dens are usually in hollow logs, dense vegetation, or under rocks. Only female bobcats care for the young, and the kittens will stay with their mothers until the next breeding season.

History: Between 1.8 and 3.8 million years ago, the lynxes made an evolutionary split from the rest of the big cats. The Issoire lynx is believed to be the first ancestor of the bobcat that crossed from Eurasia to North America. The first North American evidence of this ancestral lynx species was found in Texas and dates back 2.4 to 2.5 million years. The Issoire lynx entered North America and evolved into the bobcat we know today.