|Monday, Dec 5, 2011|
On Tuesday, November 29th, Florida panther K304 -- now identified as FP194 -- was returned to the wild in Big Cypress National Preserve.
The release marked another step in efforts to protect this endangered species, with a current estimated population of only 120 individuals. This number, however, is a decided improvement from the estimated of 30 to 50 cats in the 1990s. The population is found within the Greater Everglades Region of South Florida. The primary threats facing the cats today are deaths due to car collisions and loss of habitat
On October 25, 2010, through on-going tracking activity within the park, it was discovered that the radio-collar of female panther FP102 was emitting a mortality signal. When they reached the site of the signal, NPS biologists found the remains of the cat. A subsequent necropsy confirmed that FP102 had died from wounds received during a fight.
Five months earlier the cat had give birth to two male kittens. After the death of FP102, one of the offspring, K304, was discovered orphaned. His sibling was never found.
Upon discovering K304 the NPS, working closely with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, transported the kitten to the White Oak Conservation Center, a wildlife facility in northeastern Florida. The Florida Panther Research and Management Trust Fund paid for K304/FP194's care while at White Oak.
At the facility K304 was cared for and housed in appropriate facilities with minimal human contact. Now K304, a young, healthy cat, is of the age that it can be released near the area it was born.
Early on November 29th, the cat was captured and tranquilized within the holding facility at the center, fitted with a new radio collar by NPS staff, and evaluated. The cat, now a year-and-a-half old and weighing 86 pounds, was found to be in good condition and accordingly released.
Park staff will monitor movements of the cat by tracking the animal through its new radio collar.