Ask Otus: ‘Catch of the Day’ and bobcats

Otus Rufous, an Eastern Screech-Owl, was born on Siesta Key and is a full-time resident there.

An avid hunter, accomplished vocalist and genuine night owl, Otus is a keen observer of our local wildlife and knows many of nature’s secrets.

Otus will answer your questions about our amazing wildlife, but only if you Ask Otus.  So please send your questions and photos to  Thank you.

Dear Weird Animal Researcher Otus,

Do you have any idea what kind of fish this osprey has? It came out of fresh water at Myakka.


Photo by Rick Greenspun

Dear Birddoggie,

Otus would guess it is what osprey, or an unscrupulous restaurateur during high season, might call “Catch of the Day.” However, ichthyologist Amy Benson, fishery biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Gainesville, has identified it as an American gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), a fish native to fresh and salt waters of eastern North America.

Oddly enough, just a couple of weeks before you wrote in, fisher folk on Little Sarasota Bay reported being equally puzzled by it and its sudden appearance here. This is good news for anglers because gizzard shad is a favorite food of the largemouth bass.

Now, I know you readers are agape looking at this awesome photo. Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet! Please click on the link to; and should you be interested in a bird photo safari —

Birddoggie, I was so flattered to receive a query from such an eminent bird expert that all my feathers fluffed up to the point where I could have been mistaken by everyone for a Great Horned Owl; well, except by you and all other members of Sarasota Audubon Society!

Thank you for your question, and happy birding and fishing to all!


Dear Otus,

What’s the latest on Siesta Key’s bobcat population? How many are there? When were they last seen? When do they have kittens? Has anyone taken a recent picture of them?

Thanks for cruising the skies for natural news.

Kathie Moon

Dear Kathie,

Early in April this year, a workman reported seeing Siesta Bobette with her four “ludicrously adorable” (i.e., “almost as cute as an owlet”) kittens in the 8500 block of Midnight Pass Road on south Siesta Key. This same bobcat family was subsequently, and infrequently, sighted over the next three months. This means that all four kittens survived infancy — a very rare occurrence, particularly in light of the terrible drought on Siesta Key at that time.

A bobcat mom usually has two kittens, and she will sometimes breed twice a year, usually at eight- to 10-month intervals.

One of the last sighting reports I received was of two of the kittens, at early dawn, playing rambunctiously on the pool chaises longues at a condo in the 8700 block of Midnight Pass Road. This was also about the time I noticed Bunny Wabbit’s absence and a welcome dearth of pesky squirrels around here. Well, it was hard times for all of us during that drought.

It is not known how many bobcats roam Siesta Key. They are not an endangered species in Florida and are not tagged, counted and documented in the way that the Florida panther is. We do know we have a healthy breeding population here.

We also know that in 1988, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the number of bobcats (Lynx rufus) in the U.S. between 700,000 and 1.5 million. Obviously, there’s a lot of play in those numbers. It is also the most recent bobcat census.

Nationwide, bobcats have the conservation status of “least concern.” They are, however, listed as “endangered” in Ohio, Indiana and New Jersey. For this reason, in 2004, Defenders of Wildlife partnered with the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Service to count, tag and collar bobcats in order to gather data that could be used to create a statewide conservation plan.

File photo

Whereas I’m not the ailurophile that many Siesta Key residents are, I do appreciate, admire and respect this formidable, beautiful and elusive creature. I would love to have readers send in recent photos with their accounts of glimpsing what some Native American tribes term “the Fog.”

Kathie, thank you very much for asking after our beloved bobcats!