Dated: 04/12/2018

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Driving along 30A after dark is always challenging. Because of lighting restrictions the area is usually pitch-black, leaving one grateful that the deer grazing just inches off the roadway actually stay in place. 

Repeated sightings of a large cat-like animal made me curious enough to do a little research, and from the descriptions it is possible these residents may have seen a jaguarundi.

Although it is native to both North and South America, it seems to exist today mostly in the Amazon Basin. It is postulated that if the species does exist in Florida it was introduced near Chiefland after a writer imported some of them and released them near his home. In the last century sightings have been reported in Florida and in coastal Alabama as well.

These animals have long bodies with short legs and a distinctively long tail; they range in size from 21-30 inches in length with the tail nearly as long as the body. They weigh 8-20 pounds and may be brownish-gray or chestnut red in color. 

Although they are diurnal (active during the day) most sightings around this area seem to be at night. Neighbors near our community pool described an animal much like a jaguarundi running around the perimeter of the pool enclosure in daylight, but most other sightings describe the animal's running wildly across 30A in the headlights. The long tail seems to be the most memorable feature of the encounter. 

These shy and reclusive animals are a threat only to rodents, small reptiles and a some ground-feeding birds. If they truly do exist here in South Walton County they may only give us a fleeting glance of their existence, adding to the mystical environment we call home here in Santa Rosa Beach.

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Joyce Hogue

Joyce brings to her real estate practice her well-honed communication and analytical skills from three decades of professional health care and education. Her work ethic can be summarized as "going....

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