Based on recent reports, a female Florida panther has been spotted this month across a Southwest Florida river. It has been more than four decades since the last confirmation of a female specimen.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed Monday that a female Florida panther successfully crossed the Caloosahatchee River. If she finds a mate, then the mountain lion population will increase in Florida, adding the one existing in the southern area of the Caloosahatchee River, although many specimens have been killed in recent years.
According to Kipp Frohlich, the Deputy Division Director for the FWC Habitat and Species Conservation, this rare event represents an important step in the agency’s panther conservation efforts.
If the panthers expand their breeding range, there is a higher chance for the big cat’s population to recover. A trail camera first photographed the female Florida panther in 2015. Since then, researchers set up several other cameras which took more pictures of the panther, but it was hard for them to establish the panther’s gender.
In November, a researcher found the tracks of a female panther near a camera. The female tracks are easily distinguishable from the male tracks because they are smaller. According to Darrell Land, the team leader of the FWC’s panther research, when everyone saw the tracks, they were sure that they belonged to a female Florida panther.
He says that male panthers have larger paws than females by the time they leave their mothers. In other words, a full-grown male has significantly larger paws, leaving no doubt that the tracks discovered by the researchers belonged to a female.
The Florida panther’s population has plummeted over the past five decades. More precisely, there were just 46 specimens remaining in 1990. In order to support the recovery of the population, biologists introduced nine Texas cougars, all females.
This subspecies is a cousin of the Florida panther. Fortunately, the strategy paid off, and panther’s numbers increase to roughly 180 specimens. However, the lack of habitat has led to many road kills, whereas more males have started killing each other.
Thanks to the fact that a female Florida panther crossed the Caloosahatchee River, biologists now hope that the northern population will have more females, thus becoming more stable.
Image Source: Static Flickr
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