Today the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced that the third female panther in almost fifty years was recently spotted north of the Caloosahatchee River in Charlotte County, signally a major milestone for the endangered species.
Biologists with the FWC released images from a trail camera showing an adult female Florida panther north of the Caloosahatchee River. “This is a good sign for our state’s official animal because the River has appeared to be a major obstacle to northward movement of female panthers for many years,” said the FWC in a Facebook post
Since most female panthers are almost exclusively found in South Florida, this is a very big deal. Back in 2015, the FWC celebrated the first image of a nursing female panther north of the waterway, signaling a giant step towards the species expanding to new areas to roam and, well, make more babies. While the wide-ranging cats need ample space, especially males, female panthers have been less likely to cross the river and join the dating pool.
“This is good news for Florida panther conservation,” said Kipp Frohlich, deputy director for the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation in a statement from 2015. “Until now, we only had evidence of panthers breeding south of the Caloosahatchee. These pictures of a female with kittens indicate there are now panthers breeding north of the river.”
Of course, there’s a lot that stands in the way of a new batch of panther kittens. Over the years, depleting habits from things like new condos and ranches, as well as new toll roads and highways have drastically contributed to the panther’s declining numbers.
According to records
from the FWC, in 2019 only 7 new panther kittens were recorded in the wild. This is a far stretch from the 26 panthers that died
, and all but four of those were killed by a motor vehicle.
As of now, the agency says there are approximately 120-230 adult panthers living in Florida.
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