A young panther kitten was rescued in early May 2013 by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) when it was found injured in a Collier County neighborhood according to a FWC news release. A homeowner reported seeing the panther kitten dragging its leg when he left for work and called the FWC to investigate.
The Florida panther is considered one of the most endangered large mammals in the world. They are typically solitary animals who only come together to mate. Females raise their kittens who are weaned at around 6 months of age. However, they may stay with their mother for up to twenty months.
A team of experts made up of FWC panther biologists, deputies with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, and Golden Gate Animal Clinic staff responded to the call and searched the area where the juvenile female panther was last seen by residents. When they discovered the panther hiding in thick brush, they sedated it so they could assess the panther’s condition at the scene.
Once it was determined the panther could be moved, the FWC biologists transported the panther to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida. After a thorough examination, hospital veterinarians determined the panther had a compound fracture of her rear leg, rib fractures and bruising around the lung, most likely caused by a collision with a vehicle.
Later that evening the veterinarians performed extensive surgery to repair the fracture using a steel plate to mend the bone together.
“We are pleased with what appears to be a successful surgery with no complications,” said Darrell Land, FWC panther team leader in the press release. “Thanks to the help of our partners, this panther has a very good chance of returning to the wild. With only 100 to 160 adults and subadults remaining in south Florida, every panther plays an important role in the population.”
The FWC with the help of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relocated the 9-month-old panther to the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee where she will rehabilitate with the goal of releasing her back to the wild in the future.
The White Oak Conservation Center provides the panthers with large naturalistic enclosures where they have minimal human interaction so they will retain their natural instincts. Keepers and veterinarians monitor the cats from a distance with camera traps and radio telemetry collars to ensure their health. A successful release of an orphaned male kitten raised at White Oak took place in the Big Cypress Wildlife Preserve in early 2012.
Florida residents can support conservation efforts such as the rescue and rehabilitation of injured or orphaned panthers by purchasing a panther license plate when renewing their automobile tags. These fees are the primary funding for FWC’s research and management of Florida panthers. FWC asked that citizens report dead or injured panthers to the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or #FWC or *FWC on a cell phone.
For more information about the Florida panther at the Panther Net website. Information about the panther conservation efforts at White Oak Conservation Center can be found on their website.