The photo below of was shared by my friend, and UF NRLI class member, Florida Wildlife Commission, senior wildlife biologist, Angeline Scotten. Angeline was recently called to Sebring, located northwest of Lake Okeechobee, to identify an unusual and beautiful canine hit by car, a black bobcat. Black bobcats, more properly called “melanistic,” are often reported as “black panthers.”
Melanism, like albinism, is a rare genetic trait that few are able to witness…in the photo below we can see the cat’s unique coloring in the sunlight.
This remarkable creature is one of thousands of animals killed on Florida’s highways every year. I am posting this photo in hopes that by seeing it, somehow it may will help save the life of another. Please drive carefully looking out for bobcats and the rest of God’s creatures!
*Thank you to Angeline Scotten for sharing this photograph.
melanism [mel-uh-niz-uh m] noun Zoology. the condition in which an unusually high concentration of melanin occurs in the skin, plumage, or pelage of an animal.
Martin County’s theme is “Our Good Nature.” We have kept some of it, unlike so many other counties in the state of Florida. I grew up appreciating this. My mother and father used to bring home injured animal for my sister, Jenny, my brother, Todd, and me to care for when we were growing up in Stuart in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. I was taught never to be afraid of wild animals, but to respect them.
One of my favorite fascinations with local wildlife is the black, or “melanistic,” bobcats of western Martin County. I have written before about this local genetic phenomenon. In fact, it is one of my all time most popular posts. Indeed, there are more reports of black bobcats or “black panthers” occur right here, especially around Lake Okeechobee and the St Lucie Canal, than anywhere else in the state!
Yesterday, my friend and UF NRLI classmate, FWC biologist Angeline Scotten– who was in town to give a coyote presentation for Sewall’s Point and Martin County, took me to visit Busch Wildlife Sanctuary and to meet her mentor– of animal-fame– David Hitzig, Busch Wildlife’s long time executive director. I was totally impressed. What an amazing place. You must visit! http://www.buschwildlife.org
Early on in the conversation I told Mr Hitzig that for whatever reason, although an animal fan, I had never visited Busch Wildlife Sanctuary—but that I had written about a black bobcat that was documented to be at the sanctuary after being trapped near the St Lucie Canal in Western Martin County. This bobcat had been eating somebody’s chickens.
Excitedly, Mr Hitzig noted that yes, the melanistic bobcat had been at the center a few years ago, and was released. He also shared that just this month, April 2016, there had been reports of not one, but two, black bobcat cubs walking behind their mother; he later shared this rare and awesome photo.
What a sight! Two black bobcat cubs strolling happily along behind their mother in western Martin County. I love this place. Don’t you?
Correction to blog 🙂 Just after completing this post, I just received an email from David Hitzig of Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, and this black bobcat cub photo was taken in Okeechobee, a western neighbor to Martin County not Martin County itself as I thought when I wrote this! Certainly there are no boarders for the cats and Okeechobee and Martin are side by side “out west.” See map below. Wanted to note for the record. jacqui
Thank you Mr David Hitzig for sharing this marvelous photo.
Thank you to FWC Angeline Scotten from UF NRLI Class XV for taking me to the Busch Wildllife Sanctuary and for her excellent coyote presentation for the Town of Sewall’s Point: http://nrli.ifas.ufl.edu
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!”