Pythons, Bobcats & Camera Traps

A Burmese python and a bobcat facing off in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida last June, captured by a trap camera set up by the U.S. Geological Survey. U.S.G.S.

We have been posting about invasive pythons, as well as plenty of other invasive species, annually for more than a decade now. Likewise, feline wildlife has been a recurring theme. Not to mention camera traps, another theme we care about.

For a surprising overlap of those two themes, or otherwise just a very well-written story about wildlife, read Matt Kaplan’s article about how Bobcats With a Taste for Python Eggs Might Be the Guardians of Florida’s Swamp.

The bobcat eating the eggs. U.S.G.S.

Our congratulations to Dr. Andrea Currylow for the determined pursuit leading this scientific finding, and with no disrespect to pythons as a species in their native territories, in this case may the best cat win:

Cameras captured the wild feline purloining a Burmese python’s eggs, giving hope that the state’s native species are responding to a voracious, invasive predator.

The bobcat took a swipe. U.S.G.S.

The voracious appetite of the invasive Burmese python is causing Florida’s mammal and bird populations to plummet. With little natural competition to control the big snake’s numbers, the situation looks desperate. But new observations suggest that the bobcat, a wildcat native to Florida, might be able to help.

A team of ecologists collected evidence recently of a bobcat devouring python eggs in the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida, and last month reported their findings in the journal Ecology and Evolution. It’s hard to say whether this individual cat was more adventurous than the average bobcat, but it suggests one potential way the python’s proliferation could be limited — by other animals eating their unhatched young.

The event was captured by a motion sensitive camera that a team led by Andrea Currylow, an ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, deployed in June 2021 near the nest of a large female Burmese python. The camera had been put in place to better understand the reproductive biology of these huge snakes. A few hours after installation, the snake slithered away and the camera snapped shots of a bobcat arriving and eating python eggs during the early evening.

“We were completely floored,” Dr. Currylow said. “We had no idea that the nests of these snakes were being depredated.”

Apparently the feline decided that it rather liked what it had found because it came back for another snack three times that night. The next morning the bobcat returned to cache uneaten eggs in the ground to consume at a later date. That evening the bobcat returned again, but, this time, the python was back on her nest. Weighing about 20 pounds, the feline was clearly aware that the 115-pound python posed a serious threat and, rather than trying to eat more eggs, it padded around the nest at a safe distance for a few minutes before leaving.

The next night the camera took a photo of the two predators in a face-off. Apparently, the bobcat felt the clutch was worth fighting for because it returned in the morning and aggravated the python enough to prompt an attack. The strike, which missed the cat, triggered the camera. So too did a counterattack by the bobcat as it made swipes with its claws at the enormous reptile…

Read the whole article here.

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