MIAMI (CBS4) – An endangered Florida Panther was released in the Everglades after spending most of his life in captivity.
“It was picture perfect,” said Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission biologist Darrell Land. “The cat must have followed the script even though we didn’t give him a copy of it.”
The 2-year-old panther was rescued with his sister by FWC when they were just 5-month old kittens. Their mother was found dead in Collier County in September of 2011.
“If we weren’t able to catch those kittens they most certainly would have died,” said Land. “Kittens of that age would not have the skill sets to live on their own without mom.”
The pair was taken to the White Oak Conservation Center in North Florida, where they were raised.
“Rehabilitated in natural atmosphere where they have very little contact with humans,” said FWC commissioner Ron Bergeron.
“They’re able to provide him with live prey so we know he’s capable of making his own kills,” said Land.
The female was released in Collier County last February. Today the male was set free at the Rotenberger Wildlife Management Area along the borders of Palm Beach and Broward counties. The area was picked out because there are few adult males who have marked the territory there.
“We wanted to give this guy a chance to get acclimated on his own without having to immediately face resident adult males,” said Land.
So far six kittens have been rescued and released through the FWC program, in an effort to protect and promote the growth of Florida’s panther population.
“In late 70’s, early 80’s we were down to about 30 panthers left in wild so it’s tremendous success story,” said Bergeron. “Today we’re up to 100 to 160 panthers in the Everglades.”
Biologists put a monitoring collar on the panther so they can keep up on how he’s doing.