BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, Fla. -- A 2-year-old Florida panther is now back in the wild after being relocated from near a farm worker camp in Immokalee.
Its new home is in Big Cypress National Preserve after being released Wednesday afternoon near Gum Slough in the southwest corner of the Preserve by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and National Park Service.
The panther was originally captured on April 12 at the Farm Worker Village neighborhood, near Immokalee in Collier County. Based on observations of the panther’s behavior, including evidence that pets and feral domestic cats in the neighborhood had frequently been preyed upon by the panther, as well as the specific layout of thick vegetation in and around Farm Worker Village, a decision was made to remove and relocate the panther as a safety precaution and as a form of aversive conditioning intended to change the panther’s behavior.
Once captured, FWC staff transported the panther to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo where it received multiple health assessments, primarily to ensure that it did not test positive for feline leukemia. Zoo veterinary professionals gave the panther a clean bill of health and determined it was ready to be returned to the wild in a more remote area.
Biologists believe the panther was dispersing from its mother, attempting to find a suitable home range. With the release of the male into the Preserve the main threats it continues to face are being killed by another territorial male in the vicinity or being killed by vehicle collision as it continues to roam to find a suitable home range.
The FWC and USFWS staff are working with residents of the Farm Worker Village to prevent future conflicts with Florida panthers. Biologists have made numerous site visits and have held multiple meetings at the Village to provide information about steps residents can take to reduce risk and to deter panthers and bears from lingering in the area. The FWC and USFWS are also working with the property manager to address overgrown vegetation in and around the neighborhood.
For more information about coexisting with panthers, visit FloridaPanthernet.org and click on “Living in Panther Country” in the top left corner.