The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced on Monday that it found two Florida panther kittens north of the Caloosahatchee River, which is good news for Florida's big cats.
So far, Florida panthers have only been breeding south of the Caloosahatchee River, which is located southwest of Florida's Gulf Coast near Fort Myers. FWC says that this is a "big leap" for the Florida panther population, which has seen a slight incline
over the past year.
A recent head count of Florida's panther population showed an increase from a mere 100-180 range to a range of 120-230 (not including kittens).
"Until now, we had only evidence of panthers breeding south of the Caloosahatchee," said Kipp Frohlich, deputy director for the FWC's Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. "These pictures of a female with kittens indicate that there are now panthers breeding north of the river."
The panther family was found with the help of trail cameras that captured images of the female who appeared to be nursing. According to the FWC, up
until now the Caloosahatchee River has been a tough hurdle for panthers to overcome.
"For many years, the Caloosahatchee River has appeared to be a major obstacle to northward movement for female panthers," said Darrell Land, FWC panther team leader. "This verification of kittens with the female demonstrates panthers can expand their breeding territory across the river naturally."
To help the FWC with panther research, you can send photos of panther sightings here