Two rare big cats made interesting and somewhat historic appearances this week. A man in Florida took a picture of a rarely seen bobcat on a beach doing something even more rare – hauling in a shark. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world in a much colder spot, a wildlife camera confirmed for the first time that the rare snow leopard has moved into a Siberian nature park.
Bobcats (lynx rufus) roam most of the continental United States but the nocturnal felines are rarely seen, so John Bailey thought he was watching a dog playing in the water on a Fort Pierce beach around 6:30 pm. As he got closer, he realized he was seeing a bobcat wade into the surf, pounce on a shark and drag it to shore. Bailey managed to take one photo with his camera before the bobcat dropped the shark and ran off.
Skeptics picked the photo apart but wildlife officials saw nothing unusual. Bobcats like water and, although they prefer forest fauna, a hungry one would definitely be game for seafood.
2015 is the International Year of the Snow Leopard, celebrating this beautiful endangered big cat that is down to about 6,000 adults in the wild, of which less than 2,500 are breeders. Preferring alpine and sub-alpine zones and elevations ranging from 3,000 to 4,500 meters (9,800 to 14,800 feet), snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are found mostly in the mountains of Central and South Asia.
Siberia created the Saylyugem National park in the Altai Mountains in 2010 to protect wildlife and attract new species to the area. Photographs and videos of what may be multiple snow leopards were take in March 2015. Experts examining the images have detected some differences and are sending droppings to a lab to determine if the park has a pack of snow leopards.
One reason the Saylyugem park was created is that hunters killed at least 10 snow leopards in the Argut river valley in the 1990s, selling their hides for fur and their remains for medicine. The bobcat is endangered in three U.S. states and, like the snow leopard, their only natural enemy is humans, which is never good for animals.
From Florida to Siberia, it’s our responsibility to protect and preserve these beautiful big cats.