Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo
MARCO ISLAND — Nearly mistaken for the protected and endangered Florida panther, a Florida bobcat was struck by a vehicle and killed near the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge Tuesday morning.
An officer with the Florida Department of Corrections, Robert Wolfarth, came across the native Florida wild cat on Collier Boulevard just north of Marco Island at about 9:30 a.m. this morning.
"There's a scout up there," Wolfarth said, pointing to a buzzard sitting on a utility pole overhead.
"They do a good job cleaning up but we need to get this out of here so no one gets in an accident looking at it," he added, as the cat at that time was near the middle of the southbound Collier Boulevard lane.
Marco Island Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Chris Byrne and Isles of Capri Fire Chief Emilio Rodriguez also stopped as they saw Wolfarth and a crew of inmates, who were out cleaning up the medians, standing near the side of the road.
Byrne put a call in for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to pick up the bobcat.
Rodriguez and Wolfarth said although the large wild cat looked a bit like the protected Florida panther, the deceased animal was actually the smaller, Florida bobcat.
They pulled the animal safely to the median as FWC crews were reportedly on their way from a nearby substation on Shell Road in Naples.
Bobcats are not protected by any state or federal laws and they are not endangered, reported FWC spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro.
There is a large population, but the exact number of them is unknown because the species is not "managed," she added.
Bobcats are found all over Florida and in many parts of the U.S.
"Most Floridians have never seen a bobcat, though the fringes of suburbia continue to move ever closer to its habitat," Ferraro said.
Bobcat attacks on humans are uncommon and if a bobcat does attack a human, in most cases, the cat is sick with distemper or rabies, she added. Ferraro said there are precautions people can take to limit the impacts of wildlife-human encounters.
"The FWC reminds residents not to let wild animals become comfortable in residential settings as sometimes happens when people leave any type of food source outside. Residents should maintain the condition of their homes so animals can’t get inside attics, eaves or garages," Ferraro said Tuesday.