Wildlife

Breeding success for Florida’s wild panthers

Four panther dens–each with three kittens–have been found so far this spring in Florida’s wilderness, biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Big Cypress National Preserve (BCNP) said today.

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FWC photo

“These particular dens were found in palmetto thickets in Picayune Strand State Forest and BCNP in Collier County,” FWC said in a news statement. “The births are significant because they offset panther deaths and hopefully mean the population will continue to grow.”

The panthers’ numbers declined to approximately 30 cats by the early 1980s, but research and monitoring by FWC biologists have helped in restoring the genetic health and vigor of the panther population, the agency added.

Florida panthers breed throughout the year, but peak activity occurs in the spring, FWC said.

“Biologists attempt to visit the dens when the kittens are approximately two weeks old. At that time, litter size and composition are noted, samples (skin, hair, blood, fecal) are taken for genetic testing and health screening, transponders are inserted for identification purposes.

“This information helps biologists learn about the genetic structure of the population. Also oral deworming medication is administered to help give the kittens a healthy start.”

Florida-panther-kittens-photo-2.jpg

After their medical check, the panther kittens are returned to their den.

FWC photo

The kittens stay in the den for about two months, after which they begin following their mother to kills and begin the weaning process, FWC explained. “Kittens stay with their mother for about 14 months. Females set up a home range near or overlapping their mother’s home range. Males disperse away from their natal range, sometimes covering hundreds of miles before settling into their own home range.”

“It’s quite rewarding when we can follow Florida panthers throughout their lives,” said FWC panther biologist Mark Lotz. “Active dens are tangible evidence that the Florida panther is reproducing. We learn so much about panthers when we track them from birth through adulthood.”

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The spotted fur of panther kittens helps camouflage them in the dappled sunlight of the den.

FWC photo

Details on this year’s births can be found at Florida PantherNet; click on “Panther Pulse.”

State funding for panther research and monitoring comes from fees collected when Florida residents purchase panther specialty license plates. Visit http://www.buyaplate.com/ for more information.

To report dead or injured panthers call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

Related blog post:

Florida Panther Fights for Survival Again–This Time in Washington D.C.

 

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Jeff Cummings

    Incredibly cute, what an awesome sight!

  • dajane

    these animals are exstrodinary animals and are beautiful

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