The Black Bobcats of the St Lucie Region and Indian River Lagoon

Melanistic bobcat caught in Martin County (Photo Busch Wildlife Center)
Captured melanistic bobcat from Martin County (Photo courtesy of Busch Wildlife Center, 2007) 

The Martin County Difference” is an expression that one often hears from locals that means exactly what it says, “things are different here…”

Not only are the different, they are exceptional. We have the beautiful St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, a four story height limit, a strong urban service boundary, great public schools,  a strong fertilizer ordinance, public beaches and black bobcats…

When I was a kid growing up in Stuart, one sometimes heard stories from the kids that lived in Indiantown or Palm City about “black panthers.” And someone who had seen them would swear on their mother’s grave this to be true. Supposedly these stories had been around for many, many years coming down from parents and grandparents.

More recently in 2008, my first year on the Sewall’s Point commission, the town had  at least  three “normally colored” bobcats and multiple kittens. The sightings were very exciting but scared some residents who had moved here  from up north so I started reading about bobcats in great detail. Eventually we had Dan Martinelli of the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center speak before the commission and things calmed down but my fascination with these beautiful creatures did not.

I talked about bobcats a lot during this time and in the course of a discussion, one of my husband’s physician friends who lived in Palm City, with great excitement told a story of  seeing a black bobcat in Palm City walk across his yard. That same year one of the Guatemalan landscape workers in the town, knowing I loved animals, struggled wide eyes to tell me about the black panther he had seen walking along a fence, close to Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie Canal, that he had seen while fishing with his son.

According to my reading there have been more reports of melanistic bobcats in Martin County than anywhere else in the country, mostly near the area of the St Lucie Canal, Lake Okeechobee and Loxahatchee.

If you want to find these reports, google “melanistic bobcats martin.” These posts are not entirely scientific but they are documented. They say there have been sightings for the past 80 years.

Although I never seen a black bobcat, popular lore says the exist, I believe it, and it’s certainly better documented than Sasquatch who many of my high school friends claimed to see too.

What an incredible place to live! The “Martin County Difference!”


According to the Florida Wildlife Commission black panthers  do not exist  but black bobcats do!



23 thoughts on “The Black Bobcats of the St Lucie Region and Indian River Lagoon

  1. Cool! My grandmother and grandfather lived in their motorhome out on their boatyard in the early 70’s – on the SOuth FOrk – Matlack Yacht Builders – and my grandmother saw what she called a “black panther” back then!!! I’ll never forget the story:)

  2. Nic that is such a cool story about your grandparents. Yes people do call them black panthers and they are large enough at 35 pounds for a male to really look like one; there are black panthers too I imagine. They would weigh about 100 pounds! All mammals can be melanistic or albino. It is a mutation, of ten one that helps them blend in.
    I love this post form Susan Dillard about seeing one in Sewall’s Point: ”
    Oh Jacqui! Seeing is believing, had to be around 1980, living on Emarita Way in Sewalls Pt. Had been babysitting at night, riding bike home. What I would swear was a black panther crossing the road, stopped me dead in my tracks. All I could do was stare as the beautiful green eyed cat stared back. I remember the how the air was foggy but cool,the lighting on the road, and graceful, slow steps the Bobcat took. Nice to know, I was not imaging what I saw. Today I would have to question what I see, do to eyesight not being what it was. LOL”

  3. I had not heard about them.

    Our landscaper, who works from Indian River County all the way down to Boca, says also that Martin’s climate is more moderate summer and winter than nearby counties, which I have long thought too.

    W.E. “Ted” Guy, Jr.

    643 SW Fuge Rd

    Stuart, Fl 34997

    (772) 287-4106 (home)

    (772) 485-1866 (cell/car)

  4. My 1st. sighting goes back to 1969, being a young lad who had studied Big cats and Raptors and still am, I thought I was being tracked out by the Corbit Area while camping and hunting with pellet gun by a Black Panther. I still think it was but could have possibly been a black Bob Cat. He seemed larger — Panther size, but again I was smaller in stature then. People did not believe 4 teenagers then !! But I Do because I was one them. Here`s To Our BLACK CATS, May They Be Around Forever !!

  5. Another very interesting comment :


    Linda McLendon
    Linda McLendon
    Hi Jacqui – I read your blog about the black bobcats. My uncle, Warren Kendall, and my friend Carol Weatherford’s father, Richard Yoder, hunted what they called a black panther on Sewall’s Point for many nights. I remember praying for the panther to survive. These men were avid hunters and I believe they would have known a bobcat from a panther. My uncle, in fact, found a half domestic/half bobcat and brought the kitten home. He was large, but loving unless you touched his stomach. One of my neighbors here in Palm City confessed that he had shot what he thought was a bobcat, but turned out to be a young almost black panther. He was distraught about it at the time. Mr. Yoder is still alive and might be able to give you more information on his hunting adventures. Linda Kendall McLendon (worked for your dad)
    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
    Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch
    That is absolutely fascinating. I would love to talk to Mr Yoder. How could I reach him? Could we go

  6. I spotted a black (melanistic) bobcat at the Oxbow Eco-Center in Port St. Lucie, Florida, at approximately 6 PM EDT on 3 April 2015. At first I thought it was a black dog, but it was shaped and moved like a cat (I’ve seen big cats before, including bobcats), and of course the stubby tail was a giveaway, but I didn’t know there were any bobcats in the area and had never heard of a black bobcat before, so to say I was surprised is an understatement. I saw it from no more than 50 feet away as I came around a bend in the trail. It was already moving away from me and quickly turned and disappeared into the brush. The coordinates (obtained later from Google maps by putting a pin at approximately the exact spot on the path where I saw the cat) were Lat +27.358379, Long -80.356682.

    A few days later I talked with the docent (or nature expert) at Oxbow and she told me about melanistic bobcats and how rare they are. She also said that unless I had a photo of it she would not report it because “they would laugh at [her].”

    1. Dear Eric, How incredible that you witnessed a black bobcat. I am sure you did! Thank you for your comment. It may be interesting to contact the Bush Wildlife Center and ask about them as it seems the most
      stuff on line is about a trapper who brought one there. I do not know the year though. Here is the link: Please let me know what you learn. So cool! Here is another link that seems the basis for the Bush Wildlife story above:

  7. Comment from Susan Dillard Borack about her experience in Sewall’s Point when we were young. Amazing! :

    IT was the late 70’s and I was riding my bike home late at night from babysitting. Right before my eyes was a black panther in the middle of the road. I stopped immediately and watched in utter disbelief. The panther made eye contact, and then for what seemed forever we stared at each other. It was a beautiful shiny black with green eyes, looked magical with the fog of the evening surrounding it. As quick as it had appeared, it disappeared into the foggy night. I quickly biked home, peddling in utter amazement at what I had experienced. I have seen a few Florida Bobcats over the years, but nothing like the black panther. Awesome experience.

  8. We have property in Northwest Escambia County FL that is bordered by timber company land near the Perdido River. Late yesterday afternoon, my husband and his brother were riding around the perimeter of our 40 acres in a golfcart, when a large black cat crossed about 100 ft in front of them. After google research, they believe that they saw a melanistic bobcat. Have you heard of any sightings this far north?

  9. The is fascinating and I certainly believe these are authentic sightings and photos. In a discussion in my book of 2019 I cited what to me were reliable anecdotal reports of melanistic bobcats and and also some sources I researched which stated that they exist. I wish I had known about your posts at that time!

  10. Something was eating my pineapples in my yard in Sarasota. I set a game camera and caught a glimpse of what looks like a melanistic bobcat walking around the perimeter of my house. What do you think?

    1. Hi Mark. That definitely looks life a melanistic bobcat however I would think it was trying to eat vermin that were trying to eat you pineapples! Free gorgeous pest control! Awesome! Thanks for sending. BTW Very cool you are growing pineapples, my mom writes about the history of Captain Richard who grew pineapples as an industry up the road on Indian River Drive. Great you are growing.

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