October has been an exciting month in Barry and Julie Harris’ backyard.
One week after spotting what the couple believes was a gray fox rustling around in bushes at their home on Point of Rocks Road, Barry Harris snapped a picture of a bobcat taking a sunbath on their deck.
“My first reaction was, ‘My, that’s a pretty big cat,’” Harris said. On first glance, he thought it was a domestic feline.
But, after a closer look, Harris realized it was a bobcat, and he managed to take a clear photo.
And the cat wasn’t alone — two cubs emerged from landscaping and darted back and forth across the deck. The pair was too quick for Harris to capture with his camera, and the family left the yard after about 10 minutes, he said.
“They were just playing around, and messing about — having fun,” Harris said.
The couple has lived on the island for 17 years and bought the home because the shoreline at Point of Rocks reminded them of places in England, Harris said.
Before Julie Harris had hip-replacement surgery and Barry Harris got a new knee, they would walk the beach during sea-turtle nesting season as volunteers for Mote Marine Laboratory. It was the first time they had seen a bobcat, although the 72-year-old retiree said he heard there was a bobcat family that lived near the south end of Siesta.
“I don’t mean to toot my own trumpet, but I was lucky to catch them (on camera),” Harris said. Bobcat sightings are rare on Siesta, and many times the only way to document one is with a camera phone.
The Harrises used to own domestic cats and would have kept them inside after the bobcat sighting, they said. But, Barry Harris said he isn’t worried about having the felines hanging out in his backyard.
“It is extremely uncommon for a bobcat to attack a human,” according to a description of the animal by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. And with a diet that includes raccoons and rats, which are abundant on barrier islands, they help control the population of those animals.
“They’re probably more afraid of us then we are of them,” Harris said.
According to the Fish and Wildlife website, bobcat territory usually shrinks below two miles in suburban areas. The bobcat population in Florida has fared well regarding development, because they were able to adapt to neighborhoods. The organization doesn’t keep track of sightings, as it does with Florida panthers.