There’s one extra set of panther paws in Big Cypress National Preserve this week.
The 2-year-old male was found on April 12 near Immokalee, in a neighborhood popular with farm workers. Cats and other pets had gone missing in the area, cluing Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff in to the unwelcome visitor. The panther, named FP243, was likely newly separated from his mother and searching for his own territory, according to an FWC release.
After a stay at Tampa’s Lowery Park Zoo, where he was given a checkup and tested for feline leukemia, he hit the ground running in the southwest corner of the more than 729,000 acre preserve, near Gum Slough. Staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the FWC videoed the release of the big cat into his new wild home Wednesday, where his major threats will be other territorial males and cars.
With only 90 to 180 panthers left in the wild and innumerable more cars, the odds of this cat becoming the next to go splat are much higher. Nine panthers were killed by cars in April, making it the goriest month yet for the endangered cats. Last year, vehicles claimed the lives of a record-breaking 41 panthers.