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Was it a panther or bobcat spotted in Palm Beach County? State wildlife officials weigh in.

Shown are file images of a Florida panther, left, in Davenport in 2005, and an adult bobcat, right, in the Central Florida area in 2009. Residents in a West Delray community recently received a community email notifying them about a large cat being seen in their neighborhood, raising the question of whether it might be a panther or bobcat. (Orlando Sentinel file photos)
Shown are file images of a Florida panther, left, in Davenport in 2005, and an adult bobcat, right, in the Central Florida area in 2009. Residents in a West Delray community recently received a community email notifying them about a large cat being seen in their neighborhood, raising the question of whether it might be a panther or bobcat. (Orlando Sentinel file photos)
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Days after residents at a golf community in West Delray spotted a large wild cat roaming through a backyard, state wildlife officials on Thursday weighed in: They suspect it’s unlikely the animal was an endangered Florida panther.

One or more residents at Addison Reserve told the property’s management team about the wild feline, which they thought was a Florida panther, and Addison sent out an email to the community warning to “exercise caution and watch over small animals.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission said in an email to the South Florida ֱ that the more remote areas of Palm Beach County are potential panther habitat. The FWC “have verified sightings of panthers in the natural areas of Palm Beach County – Corbett, Dupuis, Holey Land, and Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas,” said the email. But the FWC is not aware of any of the big cats in Palm Beach County at this time.

Male panthers have home ranges up to 200 square miles, said FWC wildlife officials, so they move to establish new territories, avoid dominant males, and find mates.

The more developed areas of Palm Beach County do not make for appealing panther habitat, they said. “Panthers prefer very thick cover for resting, denning and hunting. Suburbia tends to be very landscaped and does not provide suitable habitat,” the email said. “Panthers may move through a residential area at night but would rather not stay. Another reason panthers aren’t likely to be in suburbia is lack of food, since their preferred food source is deer and hog.”

According to Brian Dowling, director of wildlife at Lion Country Safari west of West Palm Beach, it’s possible that the cat in question was a bobcat. Central Palm Beach County has a “very healthy” population of bobcats. He said he regularly sets up trail cams around the perimeter of the Lion Safari property and that he sees bobcats on the cameras several times a week.

There are just over 200 Florida panthers currently in the wild, according to the . The leading cause of death is combat with other panthers, and vehicle strikes.

So far this year there have been , four by vehicle, and one by train. The deaths occurred to the west, in Hendry, Lee and Glades counties.

If you happen to see a large wild cat, the FWC has produced a to telling the difference between a bobcat and a Florida panther.

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