Our favorite panther, FP158, was tragically killed May 22nd. She was crossing the Tamiami Trail about a quarter mile east of our park entrance. There is a turn in the roadway, and she jumped out in front of a car and was hit in the rear. The driver stopped and contacted us at the park, so I don’t fault the driver. At least he told us about it, and it is a dangerous curve.
FP158 had four kittens in 2008, which we have pictures of. We don’t know if they all survived or not. At least one disappeared a few months later, which is not unusual. Young animals have a dangerous life in their early ages.
I have a few photos of FP158 and her mate from a trail cam outside my house from last October. I saw her mate come out of the hammock in broad daylight, and seeing a Florida panther in the wild is far different from seeing one in the zoo. They are magnificent creatures and have a powerful demeanor in the wild.
We were really concerned with FP158 because her range would frequently cross the road. That is why the panther crossing signs were placed along the roadway along the park about two years ago. And at the same time, Collier County raised the speed limit from 45 mph to 60 mph, and ignored our strong objections. Which means that a lot of cars on the roadway will go about 70 mph in front of the park.
FP158 is one of four florida panthers who were killed in the past two weeks along Collier County roads. Another juvenile was killed 6 miles away near Manatee elementary, and another one killed further east on 41 near Ochopee or Oasis.
Below: photo from Naplesnews.com. A very disturbing photo of our dead panther. It really makes me cry to see this.
But the death of FP158 is very tragic and has made all of us upset for two reasons. First is because she had two six-week old kittens. We searched for them, but without any luck. By now without their mother to support them, they have probably also died.
And the second tragedy is the poor response we got from FWC when FP158 was hit by the car. She had not died right away, but was very much alive. There was no blood, so she obviously had internal injuries that she eventually died from.
But when we called FWC, the dispatcher who answered the phone sounded like it was a big inconvience to send someone out there to get the panther. That’s their job, and a very important one. I guess they were detained by something more important, like ticketing the guy who had a snook that was one inch in length over the catch limit.
So one of our rangers waited by FP158 for the FWC officer to arrive. FP158 was walking around, but obviously injured. And breathing with difficulty. It took several hours for the FWC officer to arrive, and by that time, our girl had died. Could a quick response have saved her life? I guess we will never know. But it was really frustrating for us seeing her die under these circumstances, and the possible death of her kittens.
To add insult to injury, the FWC officer was on the news claiming that he was the one who found the injured FP158.