Florida, main breeding range is currently south of Caloosahatchee River, but some breeding females are north of the river.
Carnivore: deer, other medium to small-sized mammals. Also known to take domestic livestock and pets.
REPORT A PANTHER SIGHTING | LIVING WITH PANTHERS | PANTHER CROSSINGS | VIDEO
The Story of Uno: The Florida Panther Blinded By a Shotgun
Naples Zoo created a permanent home for a young Florida panther named Uno who couldn't be returned to the wild after he was blinded by a shotgun blast. Beyond caring for panthers, Naples Zoo expands public awareness of the complex issues surrounding the growing number of cats in the area. To meet the increased need to care for injured or orphaned panthers, Naples Zoo created a behind-the- scenes rehabilitation area to provide temporary care and will also be adding an all-new large animal veterinary clinic. This is part of a cooperative effort with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife and Conservation Commission (FWC) to meet their needs in recovering the state’s panthers. Naples Zoo also hosts the annual Florida Panther Festival.
“The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is an integral partner in Florida panther conservation efforts. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service values the investment made by Naples Zoo staff and their supporters in constructing a facility specifically designed for the temporary housing of injured or orphaned panthers removed from the wild. This investment, combined with the Naples Zoo's long-standing commitment to providing science-based education and support for field conservation efforts, is a model for the private and public partnerships that will be crucial as we move forward with Florida panther recovery.” David Shindle, USFWS Florida Panther Coordinator
VIDEO: Prowling for Panthers featuring Uno by Odyssey Earth. (Note the panther population estimate has been updated since this video was edited.)
Blinded, Wounded, and Surviving on Road
Uno was rescued by FWC biologists. After surviving a shotgun blast to both the face and hindquarters, the wounded and blinded cat may have been surviving on road kill for up to six weeks before he was found. He quickly received exceptional medical care at the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida and Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo where he began regaining weight and health. The panther was named Uno as he was the first animal treated in Lowry Park's new veterinary hospital.
Returning to Health At His New Home
National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore visited Naples Zoo in May of 2015 and took this striking image of Uno as part of the Photo Ark project.
After arriving at Naples Zoo, Uno finished regaining his weight and health although his blinding was permanent. Initially, he was cared for by the Zoo’s carnivore team in a behind-the-scenes area where he had free choice of inside and outside spaces. “Along with direct observation, we used remote cameras to monitor Uno’s activities during the day and night. While he preferred the indoor area at first, the videos showed him exploring the outdoor area more and more,” explained Naples Zoo’s Director of Animal Programs Liz Harmon. “Given the trauma he experienced, he adapted quickly.” The animal care staff trained Uno to sound cues and offered gentle, reassuring tones as they helped to transition him to a life without sight.
Help for Other Injured Cats
As Uno’s story demonstrates, many dedicated agencies and related biologists and veterinarians currently serve to help injured panthers. This new facility at Naples Zoo provides officials with a local facility to act even quicker by providing an alternative to moving cats several hours away in the state – an especially useful option for a cat that only needs short-term observation for a few hours or few weeks. Additional Florida panthers have received care at the behind the scenes facility. “We’re excited about providing a missing resource like this,” said Naples Zoo President and CEO Jack Mulvena. “Having a local resource like the Naples Zoo has proven invaluable," explains FWC panther biologist Mark Lotz. "We had no idea that we’d be relying on them so quickly and as frequently. Because we can get panthers there fast, the cats are more relaxed and can quickly get the specialized care they need."
Larry Williams, Florida State Supervisor of Ecological Services for the USFWS, agrees, "Florida panther conservation is a team effort. Many thanks to our partners at the Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida and the Lowry Park and Naples Zoos for nursing Uno back to health after his injury. Because he can't be returned to the wild due to his condition, we're happy Uno will be in an environment where he'll continue to receive the proper care and attention he needs at the new exhibit, which will help educate people about Florida panthers."
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 resulted in a population estimated between 120 and 230 adult and subadult cats. While still a critically low number for recovery, that growing number does increase the chance for interaction between cats and humans – and as Uno proves, it can be bad for panthers as well as people who lose pets or livestock. Educational components of the new exhibit engage guests in a balanced discussion of saving endangered species and living with large predators. FWC is still investigating the shooting of this panther.
60 Seconds for Panthers
Dozens of Florida panthers die on the roads each year. You can help Florida panthers by committing to drive the posted speeds in designated panther zones.
Make your commitment at www.panthercrossing.org and get a color panther crossing decal for your vehicle! Aspects of promoting this campaign were made possible through the Naples Zoo and Big Cypress National Preserve’s Zoo-Park Partnership for America’s Keystone Wildlife™.
Adopt An Animal: The care for panthers is supported through the generosity of Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee. If you would like to support your zoo like this, please call our Director of Development at 239.262.5409 ext 147.