OCHOPEE, Fla. - Biologists say they have now documented "antagonistic" interactions between a Florida bobcat and a python at the Big Cypress National Preserve in the Everglades.
The team of biologists from the USGS Fort Collins Science Center in Colorado caught the footage while observing the Burmese python, an invasive species to Florida, when its nest was discovered by the native bobcat.
The researchers explained what happened in the footage, which was recorded in June 2021.
"We found that the same day we deployed the camera, a male bobcat appeared in the camera frame, along with an unguarded python nest. The brooding python apparently departed the nest, leaving her eggs visibly exposed on the ground surface," the researchers wrote in their study published last month.
Over the course of two days, a bobcat — determined to be the same individual on general appearance, activity and location — can be seen repeatedly on the video approaching the unguarded nest and "consuming, trampling, caching, and uncovering the eggs."
Fort Collins Science Center / USGS
According to the team, this footage is the first documentation of any animal in Florida preying on python eggs, as well as the "first evidence or description of such antagonistic interactions at a python nest."
The researchers said no further photos captured the python at the nest site after June 15, but over the next several weeks, the camera captured a bobcat investigating the site and scavenging the destroyed eggs and eggshells left by the biologists.
Considering the size and varied diet of Burmese pythons in Florida, such bold behavior by the bobcat around a large python had the potential to be fatal for the bobcat if the python had been interested in feeding, the authors noted.
As an invasive species, pythons are hunted in Florida. The state holds annual python roundups with rewards going to trappers who nab the largest snakes.
The most recent 10-day event, in August of last year, ended with 223 Burmese pythons caught. The longest snake was a 15-foot, 9-inch python captured by a deaf science teacher.
Bobcats, on the other hand, are mostly protected in Florida but occasionally hunted. The stealthy creatures are rarely spotted even though their numbers are abundant.
They have occasionally been seen on trailcams suffering from a mysterious illness that some scientists say may be linked to toxic green algae.
Storyful contributed to this report. This story was reported from Tampa, Fla.