It could have been tragic for one panther family in Florida.
Instead it was a successful first for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The FWC rescued an injured mother panther which was hit by a car, her kittens, and managed to return them all back to the wild.
“Typically, orphaned kittens still dependent on their mothers need to be kept in captivity until they can survive on their own,” Darrell Land, the commission’s panther team leader, said in a statement. “However in this case, the mother can continue to raise her kittens, teaching them the required survival and social skills they would not receive in captivity.”
The mother panther, known as FP224, was left with a broken hind leg when she was struck in December, 2017 in Naples.
The FWC’s panther team leaped into action when it was determined she had a litter of three kittens the previous June — a female and two males.
Camera traps helped quickly find the kittens, but biologists only managed to scoop up the two male youngsters.
The big cat had surgery at Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida in Naples, and then the family was sent to White Oak Conservation Foundation, while mom recovered. Humane contact with the animals was kept to an minimum.
The group was returned to the wild on April 10 in the Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County.
“This event marks the first time we have released a family group of panthers into the wild,” the FWC beamed. “Thanks to our partners for helping to make this possible!”
This is also the second time FP224 has needed help.
She was hit by a car in 2013 and also needed to be rescued.
But since then, she has boosted the local panther population by three litters.
You can help.
If you see a dead or injured panther, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922 or #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone.