Possible Jaguarundi Sighting in North Florida

The weather is nice in North Florida at last, and it feels like Fall is here.  My bike partner and I ventured out in the early afternoon this week to sneak in a quick mountain bike ride in a nearby Greenway.  The air was the perfect temperature, although the ground was very dry – lots of sandy patches hiding under leaves.  Mountain biking on leaves can be tricky, as you are not sure what is underneath, like sand, holes, and roots, and it takes more concentration than usual.  We were finishing up and heading home while winding our way down a two-track trail near a dry swampy lake, when up ahead we saw a cat.

We both saw it at the same time, and then lost track as he wound around the next bend in the trail.  We were looking at its backside slinking down the middle of the trail.  Around the next bend we caught sight again.  My bike partner at first thought it was a bobcat, but we then realized it couldn’t be because a bobcat has a short bobbed tail, and this cat on the trail had a very long tail, reaching the ground and curling back up.  My first thought was that it looked like my tabby cat!  Then I realized it was much bigger than my 8 pound house cat.

Around the next bend we got a pretty good view as the cat turned perpendicular to the trail and darted into the bushes. I had no chance to get a picture of him unless I had my helmet cam running, and of course I didn’t.  Wildlife know when I have a camera ready and they take cover!

From the side view, the cat was at least 2 feet tall, and was a greyish color with a little bit of a pattern, like a camouflage.  I think that was what made me think of my tabby cat.  Unfortunately, we did not get a good view of its head, because that would have helped us identify the cat.

After we got home, I started searching the internet and called a biologist.  After reviewing the species of cats that can be found in North Florida, it appears we might have seen a Jaguarundi.  There are many references to sightings all over Florida, especially from Central Florida to North Florida, although there are also many sources saying that are not in this area.

The jaguarundi are from Central and South America, and have been found in Mexico, Texas, and all the way into Florida.  There are stories that they were introduced in Florida from a population from Belize.

These mammals are primarily diurnal, meaning they are more active during the day, unlike many cats which are nocturnal.  They eat rodents, reptiles and birds, as well as larger prey such as rabbits and opossums.  Fortunately for us, they do not eat humans!

Jaguarundis make many different vocalizations, like chirps, chatters, yips, whistles and purring sounds to name a few.  They are 21 to 30 inches in length, not including their tail that can be 12 to 24 inches; they weigh between 8 and 20 pounds. They have a distinctive weasel or otter-shaped head, which is why it would have been great to get a view of the head.

We saw the cat about 1:40 p.m., so it fits with their typical behavior of being active during the day, and we did not pass anyone on the trails that day, except for the cat, so it had miles of trails to itself.  The area in which we saw the cat was full of lots of scrubby underbrush and there were trees on either side of the trail – for miles.

We will probably never know what we saw, but it was a really cool cat!

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14 thoughts on “Possible Jaguarundi Sighting in North Florida

  1. I also have seen a jaquarundi. I was driving on SR24, on the way to Cedar Key (North Florida). It’s a long stretch of road with absolutely nothing but swamp and pine forest. Suddenly, straight ahead, I saw what appeared to be a housecat lope across the road and disappear in the bushes. Immediately, I realized it was too large and long to be a housecat, plus it didn’t move the way a regular cat moves. It was a dark color and had quite a long tail.

    I had never heard of the jaquarundi when I saw this animal. It’s only after I got back to my office and started asking around that someone said it might have been a jaquarundi. At first I thought they were joking, but when I did some research and saw pictures of the jaquarundi, I realized that was the animal I saw.

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  3. 12/13/2014 7am walked my dog in the area behind the Vizcaya Condominiums direct ocean front when i saw two very large cats dashing round the brushy area before the ocean dunes. They were darkish gray long cats with very long tails. I have never seen anything like them. I looked them up and believe they were two Jaquarundi . These sightings were on Melbourne Beach in Indialantic Florida 32903

    • That’s awesome! We have not seen anymore in our area; hoping someday we might. If you get a view of the face, it’s very different than most cats. Almost otter-like, and kind of squished. They definitely do not look like a house cat.

  4. 12/21/2015 I saw one yesterday on Barnes in Rockledge, between Murrell and US1. While driving on Barnes Blvd. at 4:15 in the afternoon, it crossed the road right in front of my car. I could not identify it but I knew it was a wildcat. It looked like a mountain lion with very short ears, but it was too dark to be a mountain lion, having a dark gray coat. The way it was running was not like a house cat, but more like a jaguar. I went home and looked up “wildcat short ears dark coat Florida” and came up with Jaguarundi. When I saw the photos, I was sure that was what ran in front of my car.

  5. My husband and I had a similar experience in South Florida Everglades several years ago. We were certain we saw a Jaguarundi and reported it to the local welcome center. A few days later a biologist called us and said we must have seen a Florida Panther but we were certain that the animal we saw was too small and light colored to be a panther. The biologist insisted there are no Jaguarundis in South Florida but we knew what we saw we stared at it for what seemed like forever and saw the rounded short ears, short legs, otter like body and long tail. We were shocked and when I tried to pull the camera out my husband started the truck hoping to get closer but the noise scared it away.

  6. January 15,2016 – I saw a Jaguarundi yesterday at my house outside of Tallahassee. I watched him for about 3 minutes walking and laying down as to roll on the ground. The cat was jet black and there was no doubt he was a Jaguarundi. Very cool!

  7. My husband Mark just saw a pair of Jaguarundi sprint out of the woods behind his workshop. We live in a rather secluded wooded near DeFuniak Springs Florida. He saw the pair at 7:00 pm and we’ve been hearing quite a bit of activity in the woods since February.

      • No pictures yet, but we have heard some really loud activities on the decks at this house… We live at the lake and are surrounded by woods. We are putting out some critter cams closer to the lake area as this end doesn’t have access to human traffic.

    • A few years ago when we moved out to our property in Ponce De Leon, fl I saw something cross the road and I described it to my husband who went down a list of possibilities and I researched them all since I am not a Florida native and I was positive it was a Jagurundi and yesterday on my way home I swear I spotted what must have been a juvenile crossing the road in front of my place. We are backed up to 100’s of unclear acreage. This is great to see they may be resurfacing although I have a hard time convincing anyone I have seen one.

  8. My husband and I were in Florida this past week in the Ocala then Apalachicola National forest, while in Apalachicola we spotted a cat sitting in the road. I got a couple of pictures of it, my husband was looking through the binoculars telling me to get the bigger lens out, before I could make the change it was gone, we drove down to where we last saw it and took pictures of the foot prints in the sand. It defiantly was not a house cat,I looked up Florida wildcats and found pictures, the cat we saw, it looked more like the pictures of the Jagurundi. I don’t see a way to upload the pictures here
    but if you want to see them I’ll be glad to share.

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