This Thing Called Courage

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Good News and the Bad News Regarding Florida Panthers

This is a paper in Florida, via the Cougar Netwrok. It takes money to protect the cougar (panther) from becoming roadkill-- how's about we end the war, stop killing people, stop pouring bad money after good, and investing instead in our people, our environment, and in our wildlife, who depend upon us for their survival? Just a thought....

Panthers face hazards before adulthood
Record number of animals killed on roads

By Andrea Stetson
Special to
Originally posted on January 12, 2008

It was a great year in 2007 for the Florida panther, despite a record breaking number of road-kill deaths.

State biologists said 43 panther kits were born, more than any other year during the past decade. Experts say there are probably more than 43, since those are the ones born to radio collared adult females, and others were probably born to uncollared, unknown cats.

Twenty-three panthers died including 15 that were killed by cars. Although the 15 road kills are higher than any other year recorded, Darrell Land, panther team leader for Florida Fish and Wildlife, says that's not bad news.

"I think the road kills are just a bad way to further conclude that we have a lot more panthers," he said. "When we have a lot more panthers you will see a lot more out there getting killed. In the 1980s, we thought there were only 20-30 panthers. Now there are over 100."

Biologists try to give each baby panther a good start in life. The kits are weighed, sexed, marked with a transponder chip and given some medicine to prevent worms. Still, they face many hardships on the road to adulthood.

"A newborn kitten probably has a 50-50 shot of making it to when it becomes independent of its mom," Land said. "A female once it becomes independent has an 80-90 percent chance of making it to produce its own kittens. For a male it's about 40 percent. There's a lot of competition with males."

Males need 200 miles of territory and adult males will kill younger males who step into their areas. Males are also more likely to be killed by vehicles as they wander looking for territory of their own.

"I wish there was a practical solution," Land said about reducing road kills. "There's a very expensive solution with wildlife crossings. The structures help animals get safely across highways those work, but they are very expensive."

Larry Richardson, wildlife biologist with the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, is saddened by the panthers killed on roadways.

"We had the record road kill, and that's a little bit disheartening," Richardson said. "It makes you wonder how many young adults were out there looking for territory. They need a lot of territory. They've been telling us that for years. We just need to be better stewards."

It was also the year of some interesting panther stories. On Oct. 27 a 2-year-old female panther got trapped between two fences on Corkscrew Road near Alico Road. The DOT had been building the fences to protect wildlife and had finished one fence and partially completed the second fence.

But the panther had gotten inside the partially done fence and couldn't figure out how to get out. She later went into a culvert by the fence further trapping herself. Experts with Florida Fish and Wildlife herded her toward a fence opening. The panther responded and got out through a hole cut in the fence.

Wildlife experts also rescued a baby panther in Big Cypress. The 2-month old kit had been abandoned by its mother, weighed two pounds and was starving. She was brought to the Lowry Park Zoo. There, zoo workers named her Calusa. Calusa was one of four kittens born in the Big Cypress Swamp.

When wildlife officers checked on the litter, they found the mother had moved three of the cubs and left Calusa behind. She was lethargic and thin and had a cut on her head when she was discovered. Now ,she lives at the zoo eating meat with kitten formula poured on top. Since the panther won't have a mother to teach her to hunt, she will remain at the zoo permanently.

• Scientific name: Puma concolor coryi
• Adult weight: 115-140 pounds
• Weight at birth: 4-8 ounces
• Adult shoulder height: 2-3 feet
• Adult body length: 5-8 feet
• Diet: local wildlife, squirrels, deer
• Life span: 8-15 years in the wild, 10-20 years in captivity
• Habitat: Southwestern Florida, average 100 square miles
• Population: About 100 in the wild

Source: Friends of the Florida Panther

Panther births
2007 – 43 kittens
2006 – 21 kittens
2005 – 25 kittens
2004 – 26 kittens
2003 – 13 kittens
2002 – 35 kittens
2001 – 23 kittens
2000 – 7 kittens
1999 – 24 kittens
1998 – 10 kittens
1997 - 8 kittens
1996 – 13 kittens
These are only the ones documented. Others might have been born to uncollared cats or on private property not accessible to biologists. For more information on the panthers and their kittens log onto


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