A day after it bounded out of a wooden crate to freedom in the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area, a Florida panther raised in captivity killed a coyote, and, later, an armadillo.
The kills show that the 2-year-old panther’s hunting instincts developed naturally at the White Oaks Conservation Center in Yulee in north Florida where it was raised, according to a statement posted last week on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s official Facebook page.
The panther, a male, was one of two kittens rescued in September 2011 after Fish and Wildlife officers found the mother dead. The panther was released on April 3.
Its sister was released successfully in Collier County in February, according to a news release, but officials waited to release the male to make sure it would be strong enough to defend itself.
“Young males face the additional survival challenge of potential confrontations with older males,” said FWC panther team leader Darrell Land in the news release, “but we believe our choice of a release site will minimize the risk of such encounters.”
The Rotenberger Wildlife Management, where the panther was released in front of news crews on a limestone graded road, sits just west of the Holey Land Wildlife Management area and north of Everglades Water Conservation Area 3A.
It’s part of the panther’s known range, Land said in the release, and it’s undeveloped enough to allow the young panther to adjust to its new life.
Biologists following the panther’s movement through the management area by its tracking collar discovered the two kills, according to the statement posted on Facebook.
The coyote kill interested them because coyotes aren’t usually on a panther’s menu.
But Rotenberger is packed with the kinds of critters that are: raccoons, rabbits, birds and the deer and hogs that draw in hunters each fall.
Between 100 and 160 Florida panthers live in South Florida, according to the news release.