And here you thought you only had to worry about crocodiles in Florida…
Early Monday evening, John Bailey went for a stroll through Sebastian Inlet State Park in Vero Beach, Florida, where he spotted a bobcat near the water’s edge.
He then took a photo with his iPhone that has everyone talking: the bobcat dragging a 4-foot shark out of the ocean and onto the sand.
“It’s kind of been a shock,” Bailey said of his photo going viral. “I didn’t think it was that rare, but I guess it is.”
Bailey told First Coast News that the shark appeared to be in search of smaller fish in shallow waters when the bobcat spotted it. The photographer’s presence apparently spooked the bobcat, however, and the large feline dropped the shark and ran off before enjoying shark-fin soup for dinner.
And while some outlets were initially skeptical as to the photograph’s authenticity — it’s hard to believe anything you see on the Internet these days — local wildlife experts are convinced that the animal in the photograph is a bobcat and that the scenario is totally plausible.
Hunting for fish in shallow waters is not unheard of for bobcats, Liz Barraco, a spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, told Mashable after she and several biologists examined the photo.
“This is the first time we’ve seen something like it,” she said of the shark photo. “It’s not totally unreasonable but it’s just the first time.”
“There is no reason to believe it’s fake,” she told WESH.
National Geographic photo editor Ken Geiger also suggested that the photo was authentic.
“Would they go into the surf and pull out a shark? Darn right they would,” wildlife biologist Robert King told the Miami Herald. “Unless it’s been photo-shopped, I believe it.”
The fact that a bobcat was spotted at all, let alone shark-fishing, makes the photo all the more rare.
“Bobcats are generally really very, very reclusive,” wildlife sanctuary director Amy Knight told WPTV. “You don’t see them out and about too often.”
“There are no shark fishing regulations for bobcats. Just people,” the commission added.
According to Barraco, the number of bobcats living 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 told National Geographic.