Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Naples Zoo have partnered again on a rescue effort for an injured Florida panther. On December 9, 2020, around 4:00 pm, the FWC received a call about a Florida panther that had been hit by a vehicle and was still alive. The accident occurred on Oil Well Road, just west of the junction with State Road 29. FWC panther biologists responded to the call and safely transported the panther back to Naples Zoo’s Glass Animal Hospital for a complete assessment. This is the first wild Florida panther that has been treated in the Glass Animal Hospital at Naples Zoo since it opened just one year ago.
Upon arrival to Naples Zoo, the panther received an emergency health assessment and treatment by veterinarian Dr. David Murphy. After x-rays and a full body exam, no major fractures or lacerations were found. The male panther is recovering well, and he is being monitored by Naples Zoo’s animal care team and FWC biologists. Currently, the goal is to release the panther back into the wild. The release will depend on his recovery and his ability to thrive in the wild.
In 2015, Naples Zoo joined a collaborative effort with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the FWC to assist with Florida panther rescue efforts. This five-year partnership has helped to save five Florida panthers. Thus far, all of the rescued panthers were too young, or their injuries were too severe to be released. Naples Zoo and the FWC are hopeful that this panther will be able to be released back into the wild following his recovery.
Update as of 12/15/20: The male panther is doing well. Though he is still sore from the accident, in the below video you'll see he's walking with a limp, he is now eating and becoming more active overnight. Naples Zoo staff are monitoring his progress and providing daily reports to FWC and USFWS biologists to determine if and when he can be released back into the wild.
In addition to Naples Zoo’s direct care for panthers, visitor education efforts encourage guests to learn about Florida panthers and ways that they can help them in the wild. Join Naples Zoo and FWC to help reduce the risk to panthers on the roads by committing to drive the posted speeds in panther crossing zones. Visit www.panthercrossing.org to make your commitment today.
With as few as 20 to 30 cats surviving in the 1970s, Florida panthers once teetered on the very edge of extinction. Several decades of conservation efforts for this federally listed endangered species have increased the population to an estimated 120 to 230 adult cats or more.
Photos: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission