Necropsy complete: it’s a Florida panther
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Media contact: Joy Hill, 352-258-3426
The large cat that was struck and killed in Orange County Sunday is a Florida panther, according to the results of a necropsy performed Tuesday.
“There is no reason to believe the animal is anything but a Florida panther,” said Dr. Mark Cunningham, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) veterinarian at the agency’s Wildlife Research Lab in Gainesville.
Genetic-testing results will confirm Cunningham’s finding, but they take several months to be completed.
Cunningham said the carcass appears to be that of a young male panther, approximately 3 years old. It has a cowlick, which is characteristic of a Florida panther, and there is no evidence that it was a captive animal. In addition, while the carcass was essentially decimated, the heart, which was not damaged, appears to be normal.
“A heart defect occasionally seen in Florida panthers was not seen in this panther. The stomach was the only other organ present, and it was empty,” said Cunningham.
An FWC biologist retrieved the badly damaged carcass shortly after it was struck by a double tractor trailer about 9 p.m. Sunday near Christmas, in east Orange County.
The major human-related cause of panther deaths is vehicle strikes. This is the 25th to die this year in Florida, and the 17th this year killed by a vehicle. In 2011, nine of 24 documented Florida panther deaths were attributed to vehicle collisions.
The panther population has grown five-fold since the 1980s, when its numbers dwindled to 20-30 in South Florida. Its increase to a current estimate of 100-160 adult and subadult panthers is a success story, but one tempered with the knowledge that an increasing population means a greater chance for vehicle collisions. Most panthers, and all known reproduction, occur in South Florida, but male panthers have been verified as far north as central Georgia. Verified sightings and, unfortunately, road kills in Central Florida have also increased in recent years but are by no means common.
People can assist the FWC by reporting sightings of an injured or dead panther. Call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922). Another option is texting Tip@MyFWC.com (standard usage fees may apply).
The FWC would also like to see photos of Florida panthers taken by the public. Information on how to submit them is available at https://public.MyFWC.com/hsc/PantherSightings/.
For more information on Florida panthers, go to www.floridapanthernet.org.