TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Larry Begy was early to pick up his son from school on Tuesday, so he decided to kill some time at Picnic Island Park in South Tampa.

“Came down here for a drive,” Begy recalled. “As I came in the park, I saw what appeared to be a dog laying the grass by the tree.”

But as Begy drove past, he realized it wasn’t a dog, but a big cat, and snapped a photo reminiscent of the famous Loch Ness monster picture.

Possible bobcat in the shade at Picnic Island Park. (Larry Begy)

“Yesterday, there was reported sights of a panther around here,” Begy said. “So I just shared the picture on Facebook and that was kind of it.”

But it was far from it. As the comments section started formulating theories and hypotheses (mostly surrounding panthers), even Carole Baskin took note and shared her thoughts on what animal it was (a serval hybrid).

“I shared it on the page and then everybody couldn’t believe it,” Begy explained. “It blew up, gave everybody something to talk about.”

8 On Your Side checked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“We look at general characteristics,” explained Forest Rothchild. “We look at the shape of the head, we look at the size of the ears and we also take a look at where it was located.”

Based on all of that, the commission’s biologists think the animal was a bobcat. Even though Hillsborough County did see a panther death last year, officials said it’s unlikely one would come this far north.

“As much as people want to be able to enjoy the wildlife,” Rothchild said. “It’s very important not to feed the wildlife. So don’t be leaving pet food out, don’t be leaving scraps out.”

But that’s exactly what 8 On Your Side witnessed at the park. One person said they were leaving food out for the stray cats and raccoons, both of which we saw at Picnic Island — but no bobcat. That person said the bobcat has been around for three weeks.

“It’s actually nice to know that they’re around,” Rothchild said. “Because they help keep our homes pest-free and rodent free.

The commission said there is no plan to trap the bobcat right now since it usually stays away from humans. They said if you see one in the wild, make yourself as big as possible and make a lot of noise so it knows you’re around.

If you see wildlife or suspect a law violation, you can call the FWC at 888-404-3922.