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Take a walk on the wild side with SCCF’s ‘Bobcat Tales’ program

By Staff | Jul 20, 2016

A bobcat on Sanibel. Photo by Bill Heyd

Bobcats have thrived on Sanibel and Captiva for many years, but have no fear, they pose little threat to humans.

Landscaping for Wildlife Educator of the Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation, Dee Serage-Century, has been giving her “Bobcat Tales” presentation for the past 15 years.

“Don’t worry about them. They’re going to see you before you see them. They’re very passive and secretive,” Century said.

In the hour-long lecture, Century discussed where they can be found, their mating behavior, their hunting strategies and the general biology of this elusive cat. She also noted that bobcats (lynx rufus) are flourishing in North America mainly because of their adaptability. There are 38 species of bobcats worldwide and seven in North America.

“They’re so adaptable. They eat such small things. They have small territories, and what they eat are rodents which reproduce very abundantly, and all of those non-native rats that are all around our houses that just follow us wherever we move, they’re really good at eating those,” she said.

A young bobcat, also known as a kit. PHOTO PROVIDED

Rats and mice make up 40 percent of their diet. Bobcats can also be found eating bird, fish, raccoons, rabbits and green iguanas.

Century said the programs at SCCF are important because they teach the public what to do and what not to do with wildlife on the islands.

“I think one of the reasons people come here is because we work so hard to live with wildlife and to not harm the environment. Living with predators can be a challenge. Most people who come here have never lived with predators before. Living with wildlife is something I spend a lot of time talking about. The more you know, the less fearful you are,” Century said.

During the presentation, Century said that humans are unfortunately the major cause of bobcat deaths. Florida’s hunting season for bobcats is December through March, although Sanibel does not permit hunting on the island.

Another concern of hers regarding the death of bobcats is rat poisoning, since rodents do make up a good majority of their diet.

“If a rat that is poisoned is wandering around and an owl or bobcat catches him and eats it, then those toxins are going inside of the critter. Our eagles, our bobcats, our hawks, our owls all can be affected by those rat poisonings,” Century said.

She recommends that residents use traps rather than poison if they’re having a rodent problem. She urges residents to tell pest control service and management companies to not use second generation “anticoagulants” which include brodifacoum, bromaiolone, difenacoum and difethialone. The rats eat these 20 to 30 times before they die. Century said that these are now banned for use by homeowners by the EPA, but pesticide companies are still allowed to use them.

After each program, Century hopes each person takes away a love, and better understanding of wildlife.

“They only way people work to not harm something is that they have to love it. We have a great community for that. That’s what this community is built on, that love of wildlife and trying to live with them,” she said.

Century presents the “Bobcat Tales” program monthly. She does not have another one scheduled as of yet.

Scheduled programs for this month include a snowy plover program July 21 at 1 p.m. Guests will learn about this threatened species and what they can do to protect their small nesting populations.

On July 26 at 10 a.m., meet Indie the indigo snake and Lucky, the soft-shell turtle. There are also diamond back terrapins and mangrove snakes swimming in their tanks. SCCF biologists will explain the research and projects associated with these critters.

On July 28 at 10 a.m., SCCF will host a lecture discussing the life cycles and habits of sea turtles that nest on island beaches. The cost for each program is $5 per person. Children and SCCF members are free. For more information, call (239) 472-2329.