By STEPHEN BAUMANN
ENGLEWOOD -- The report of a Florida panther being hit and killed on Gasparilla Road Thursday morning turned out to be, if not greatly exaggerated, at least somewhat off base.
Once again, what someone took to be a rare panther turned out to be a much-less-rare bobcat.
So said Lt. Brian Jones of Charlotte County Animal Control Thursday afternoon.
Jones said he happened to be on his way to Englewood when a call came in at 10 a.m. that a motorist had struck a panther on Gasparilla Road at the intersection of San Domingo Boulevard.
When he got to the scene, Jones found it was just as he suspected: A motorist had struck a bobcat.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time we get a call about a panther it turns out to be a bobcat," Jones said. "I dare say it's 100 percent."
Jones said in the 10 years he's been on the job he has never seen a panther in these parts.
"We're received Florida panther calls, but they all turn out to be bobcats," he said.
"This one just apparently ran out in front of the lady. She was pretty distraught about it," he said.
The animal was about 30 pounds, what Jones said was a medium size for a bobcat. It was dead, in the middle of the road, when he arrived at the scene, which was a good thing considering that it's a much nastier bit of business when the animal is seriously injured and must be put down.
"The car was fine. But that thing was dead as a doornail when we got there," he said. "I just pretty much just bagged him up."
Jones said it is not unusual to see bobcats -- and other wildlife -- in the residential areas around here.
"Deep Creek, Harbor Heights. Rotonda is a hotbed for Florida wildlife," Jones said.
He said he has seen many wild pigs in Rotonda. "They'll come in packs and uproot your lawns. They're huge and cause a lot of frustration."
He's even seen what was said to be wild goats in Rotonda Circle.
"There were six goats, a pack of goats, and they just took off when we got there," Jones said. But not wild, he surmised, just some wayward domestic goats.
And definitely not panthers.
Do panthers and bobcats look alike?
"Not really," Jones said. "If you had a picture of a panther and a bobcat, you'd see they're night and day."
Jones said people should be aware that development in Florida is encroaching on the habitat of the wildlife population.
"It always important to remember that we live among the wildlife. People live among these creatures, and even if you're driving down the road, they're there."
You can e-mail Stephen Baumann at firstname.lastname@example.org.