NAPLES, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Naples Zoo successfully released a rescued Florida panther back to the wild.
Naples Zoo began a collaborative effort with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the FWC to assist with Florida panther rescue efforts five years ago. Since the start of the partnership, five Florida panthers have been rehabilitated.
This panther, nicknamed “Logan” by zookeepers, recovered well and was released back to the wild on Tuesday, Dec. 22, at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
The first four Florida panthers rescued by FWC and Naples Zoo were either too young, or their injuries were too severe to be returned back to the wild.
“Saving species takes strong partnerships,” said Lee Ann Rottmann, Naples Zoo’s Director of Animal Programs. “We are very proud to be able to assist USFWS and FWC in helping this panther get back to the wild.”
Before the release, the Florida panther received a complete health assessment and was fitted with a radio collar. The FWC uses radio-telemetry to monitor and collect data on panther movement, behavior, reproduction and more. Naples Zoo and the FWC will be able to share periodic updates on Logan’s progress.
This Florida panther was rescued on Dec. 9, after the FWC received a call that the animal had been hit by a vehicle and was still alive. The accident occurred on Oil Well Road, just west of the junction with State Road 29.
FWC panther biologists responded to the call and safely transported the panther back to Naples Zoo's Glass Animal Hospital for a complete assessment. This is the first wild Florida panther that has been treated in the Glass Animal Hospital at Naples Zoo since it opened just one year ago.
With as few as 20 to 30 cats surviving as recently as the early 1990s, Florida panthers teetered on the edge of extinction. Several decades of successful conservation efforts for this federally listed endangered animal have increased the population to an estimated 120 to 230 adult and subadult panthers. For more information on panthers, please visit MyFWC.com/Panther.
In addition to Naples Zoo’s direct care for panthers, visitor education efforts encourage guests to learn about Florida panthers and ways that they can help them in the wild. Join Naples Zoo and the FWC to reduce the risk to panthers on the roads by committing to drive the posted speeds in panther crossing zones. Visit www.panthercrossing.org to make your commitment today.