Updated at 4:50 pm
Many species of cats are great fishers, and bobcats are no exception. But one bobcat created an extraordinary fish tale when it pulled a shark out of the surf.
The dramatic moment was caught on camera by John Bailey in Vero Beach, Florida, Monday night, when he was walking along Sebastian Inlet State Park. Bailey has not yet responded to a request for comment but he told local media that he saw the cat fishing in the surf.
Suddenly, the cat leaped and dragged a shark three to four feet long (one meter) out of the water. Bailey photographed the action. The bobcat, seemingly startled, then ran off into the woods, leaving the shark on the beach.
Liz Barraco, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, says “we have no reason to believe [the photograph is] fake."
Bobcats are known to eat a variety of mammals and birds and they occasionally eat fish, notes Barraco. “But this is the first time we’ve seen them fishing in saltwater.”
Still, it’s not too surprising since bobcats are opportunistic predators, she says.
National Geographic Photo Editor Ken Geiger adds that an examination of Bailey's image, which was made on an iPhone 6, suggests it is authentic.
Seth Riley, a wildlife biologist, University of California, Los Angeles professor, and National Geographic explorer who works for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California, said via email that he hasn't seen "anything like that" before in his years studying bobcats. But the behavior "doesn't surprise me," he notes.
The Florida agency's Facebook page says the shark was likely an adult Atlantic sharpnose (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae). (See how a man wrestled a seven-foot shark to the beach in Nantucket.)
In response to some users asking if the cat might actually be a panther, the agency said on Facebook that its experts believe it is a bobcat. By zooming in close, the tell-tale spots on the cat's hind legs help give it away.
Barraco adds that the number of bobcats in Florida is unknown. “They can successfully live near the coast if there are patches of natural habitat nearby, even if there is development in the area,” she says.