A car struck and killed a panther kitten in Everglades National Park Monday night (September 29). The youngster, a two- or three-month old female accompanied by its mother, was crossing a road near an entrance station when it was killed at about 10:15 p.m. The mother, who appeared to have no other kittens with it, was uninjured.
A park ranger collected the kitten’s body and turned it over to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The body was to remain at the FWC’s Naples office pending a necropsy.
A preliminary report indicated that the kitten did not have a kinked tail or a cowlick. These are often cited as distinguishing characteristics of the Florida panther. Identification is a more complicated process, however, now that the genetic mix has been altered. To mitigate inbreeding problems, female cougars from a closely related population in Texas were introduced to south Florida.
The Florida panther, one of the western hemisphere’s rarest mammals, has been a federally listed endangered species since 1967. Habitat loss and fragmentation have made it very difficult for Florida panthers to maintain their numbers. Only 80 to 100 are thought to remain in south Florida, with most living in Big Cypress National Preserve and on private land in and near the Everglades.
Panthers pass through Everglades National Park, but seldom remain very long. The park is not prime habitat and normally has no resident panther population.
Vehicle collisions and fights with other panthers are the leading causes of panther deaths. At least several panthers are killed on south Florida roads each year. Habitat limitations and food scarcity cause adults to fight over territory, sometimes with lethal results.
An excellent article on the Florida panther and its habitat problems can be seen at this site.