Three Unborn Kittens Did Not Survive
IMMOKALEE, FL. -- Sometime in the early morning hours Tuesday August 3rd, a female panther was struck by a vehicle on State Road 29 near Immokalee in Collier County. A passing motorist saw the injured animal on the side of the road, and in less than an hour biologists and a law enforcement officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission were on the scene performing triage and assessing the condition of the panther.
"She was alive and responsive," said Darrell Land, FWC panther team leader. "We immobilized the animal and transported her to Golden Gate Animal Clinic in Naples, where veterinarian John Lanier discovered she was pregnant and carrying at least three mid-term kittens."
After the panther was stabilized, Erin Myers, a veterinarian with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Mark Lotz, a member of the FWC's panther team, transported her to the University of Florida's College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville, where veterinarians announced some good and some bad news. The panther would survive; however, the unborn kittens did not survive the trauma from the accident.
Land said that without a doubt the panther had been hit by a vehicle in an area where other panthers have been killed when struck by vehicles. This panther will survive, but others have not been so fortunate. Fourteen panthers have died so far this year on Florida roadways.
"When traveling in panther country between dusk and dawn, it is extremely important that motorists drive with caution," Land said. "Panthers are active during this time, and these roads go right through their habitat."
The panther population has increased steadily since the 1980s, when the population had dwindled to 20-30. Its increase to a current estimate of at least 100 is a success story, but one tempered with the knowledge that an increasing population means more opportunity for vehicle collisions. The natural expansion of the panther population means that panther sightings may start to increase throughout Florida, however, the majority of the population still resides south of Lake Okeechobee.
Land urges motorists to report injured or dead panthers to the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
The injured panther will be taken to White Oak Plantation, a private wildlife conservation center in North Florida, where she will remain until ready to be released back into the wild.