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Florida Panther Struck By Motorist

June 7, 2005

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) recovered the remains of a male panther that was struck by a car on I-95 early Saturday morning on the Flagler and St. Johns County Line.

FWC biologist Dave Turner picked up the cat’s carcass and delivered it to the Wildlife Research Laboratory in Gainesville where researchers conducted a necropsy Monday morning.

FWC wildlife veterinarian Dr. Mark Cunningham said, “The panther, known to scientists as UCFP74 (Un-Collared Florida Panther), appeared to be a healthy, three-year-old adult and weighed approximately 125 pounds. The animal had all its claws and teeth and was in good condition.”

Cunningham said he found no tattoos or transponder chip on the cat, which indicates scientists had not encountered the panther previously. However, he said the panther had suffered severe trauma to his back, which undoubtedly would have damaged the chip if there were one.

“At any rate, the radiographs we took Monday afternoon did not disclose the presence of a microchip,” Cunningham said.

Biologists place transponder chips beneath the skin of panther kittens that are handled in the den. They have marked approximately one-third of panthers in south Florida in this way.

“The age fits for a ‘dispersing’ male. This cat probably wandered up from south Florida looking for females,” Cunningham said. “This is the age when dispersing males can, and often do, travel far and wide in search of new territories. A young male from the Big Cypress would be capable of reaching this area during dispersal.”

Panthers sometimes do stray north of the Caloosahatchee River.

“This is the first time in more than 20 years that we’ve had a confirmed panther in this area,” Chris Belden, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist said. “In the mid-1980s, we documented two males in the St. Johns Marsh from Indian River County to Flagler County.”

Scientists tracked a radio-collared male panther just southwest of Orlando back in 2000. Another panther died in a collision with a vehicle at Tampa in 2003.

“Genetic tests will be performed on samples taken from UCFP74 to unveil the cat’s origin, but these tests generally take some time,” Cunningham said. “The bones and hide will be deposited at the Florida State Museum of Natural History.”

According to Cunningham, approximately five to 10 panthers are killed on south Florida roads annually.


Related Links & Articles:
Injured Florida Panther Returned To Wild
Florida 2004-2005 Annual Florida Panther Report (pdf)

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