December 1, 2011

This week saw the happy return of an orphaned Florida panther kitten to the wild. The release of the 1.5-year-old cat took place on Tuesday evening in Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve, near the area he’d been discovered last year.

Watch the video footage of the kitten as he takes off into the Big Cypress National Preserve (footage provided by Ralph Arwood).


On October 25, 2010, through on-going tracking activity within the preserve, the radio-collar of female panther FP102 began emitting a mortality signal. Upon reaching the site of the signal, National Park Service biologists found the remains of the cat. A subsequent necropsy confirmed that she had died from wounds received during a fight. Five months earlier the cat had given birth to two male kittens. After the death of FP102, one of the offspring, was discovered. His sibling was never found.

Rescue efforts:

The National Park Service, working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, transported the kitten, now called FP194, to the White Oak Conservation Center, a wildlife facility in northeastern Florida. At the facility, the cat was cared for and housed in appropriate facilities with minimal human contact.

Vet Natalie Hall from White Oak Conservation Center examines FP194. Photo credit Ralph Arwood.

At 86 pounds and in good condition, the National Park Service has high hopes for the cat. Fitted with a new tracking color, the agency will be able to monitor the movements of the cat as he adjusts back to life in the wild.

Learn more:

Only 100-160 Florida panthers remain in the wild. See how Defenders is working to protect them and the places they call home.

See how a proposal to create a new national wildlife refuge north of Lake Okeechobee could give a big boost to efforts to save the Florida panther. 

Want to hear more about the wild cats of North America? Join Defenders and wildlife tracking expert Sue Morse for a special presentation this Thursday, Dec. 8, in Estero, Florida. For more details, call Defenders at (727) 823-3888.

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